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S P E C I A L

FOCUS ON

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he real prize in taking advantage of the Connecticut Art Trail is the chance to experience a marvelous array of venues, with the freedom to select and encounter their objects at your own pace. Each art collection along the Trail has a particular, often idiosyncratic artistic enthusiasm at its core, awaiting your fresh discovery. It is your Art Trail. With the museums embroidered into Connecticut’s varied landscape, the Trail creates a perfect add-on to vacation plans, flexible Art Pass in hand. Since it couples the experience of art with getaways to locations as diverse as the shoreline beaches and the rolling Litchfield hills, college towns and hamlets that truly are bucolic, the Art Pass vastly enriches a vacation or a day trip. A virtual golden ticket, it enables you to see art "in situ,” in every manner of showcase, formal and informal— from paintings applied directly to door panels of quirky bohemian enclaves to more modern installations gracing sleek contemporary spaces. Each institution along the Trail bears the indelible stamp of its own history and perspective. Viewed in combination, institutional contrasts are chatty and engaging. Most grew from lovingly amassed personal collections (“homes for art”) that since have become public and are enlarged with new curatorial research and outreach. Getting to know these cultural personali-

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ART NEW ENGLAND

May/June 2013

A D V E R T I S I N G

S E C T I O N

CONNECTICUT ART TRAIL

ties up-close and in-person is not only educational, it's half the fun. One enlightening element about exposure to these various institutions is the profoundly human character of curatorial scholarship— ringing with stories of friendship and connection, influence and affiliation. Originally a tenmember institutional partnership launched in 1995 as the Connecticut Impressionist Art Trail, the present Art Trail comprises a broadened consortium. The expansion sought and successfully gained increased visitation. One delightful take-away is just how often art was, in the context of its own time, considered edgy and challenging. So many of Connecticut’s original collectors were visionary and venturesome. Consider Theodate Pope Riddle (1867-1946), who instituted the Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington. This wealthy and privileged, strong-willed progressive, who refused to accept the confining expectations the Gilded Age consigned to those of her gender, became a practicing architect and an influential art collector. Her friendship with Mary Cassatt gave her an inside track on the acquisition of gorgeous French Impressionist works which now grace her former home, which she stipulated in her will was to be preserved as a public museum, with the proviso that its contents be kept intact and

unchanged. The Hill-Stead Museum therefore constitutes a time-capsule of turn-of-the-century forward-thinking, and challenging good taste: among the gleaming dark furniture and posh Oriental rugs, a visitor can find Degas pastels side-by-side with the romantic lithographic imaginings of Giovanni Battista Piranesi, landscapes by Claude Monet, and a great Edouard Manet seascape alone worth the trip. There is also the example of Florence Griswold (1850-1937), the enterprising daughter of a successful ship captain in Old Lyme, Connecticut, who, as family fortunes reversed, scraped together a living as a teacher, mentor and friend to artists, renting out rooms in the family mansion to a lively, somewhat bohemian crew. These globe-trotting, nature-imbibing free thinkers, who included Childe Hassam, Willard Metcalf and Frank DuMond, spent their summers en plein air on the park-like grounds of the Griswold House, which became a de-facto center of the Lyme Art Colony, the core of the group known as the "Connecticut Impressionists." Preserved intact (inscribed with an extraordinary array of paintings done directly on the wood paneling and doors by Florence's board-

Art New England: Focus On - Connecticut Art Trail  

Art New England: Focus On - Connecticut Art Trail

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