Friday, March 30, 2012

the Museum gets a New (for us) Truck!

Thanks to all the generous “Raise Your Bid” contributions from our 2011 Annual Fund-Raiser Auction, the Museum has managed to procure a new (for us) pick-up truck.  It is a 2004 Ranger Green F-250 Extended Cab Ford that we found at Saybrook Ford. We also bought a brand-new plow that we attached to the front-end in the event of snow. I daresay, we had only one opportunity this season to test it out before spring descended upon us.  Nonetheless, the truck will come in very handy this season for removing garden debris, as well as transporting near and sundry all year long as the  museum’ s busy calendar dictates; whether it is in support of  Faire Village projects, or moving pedestals and platforms for gallery exhibits, or hauling trash  after the Mid-summer  and Annual Auction Event.


Thank you all again for your generous support.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Historical Garden Gets Rejuvenated

This spring, 2012, Miss Florence’s Historical Garden received a new soaker hose irrigation system as well as a complete replacement of the board edging the flowerbeds.

Maxim Irrigation installed the New Soaker Hose System in December 2011. It replaces the older “pop-up” heads system with a much more efficient water–saving system that consists of a series of soaker hoses buried in parallel rows among the flora.

 The garden cedar board edging was in great need of replacement and Ted Gaffney, the Facilities Manager, found a ready source of sassafras boards from Michael Taylor of Clarkson Falls, CT.  Mr. Taylor felled, sawed and dried the timber in his curing shed.  Sassafras wood is known for its resistant properties to wood rot. The board edging was cut to size and installed by Randy Robinson of Total Landscape with the help of his assistant Pat Jones. Sheila Wertheimer, our Lead Gardener, recommended that we use metal corner devices with metal connectors to tie the boards together.  These were obtained from Gardener’s Supply Co. of Burlington, VT.

 Come see the Historic Garden! It only gets better with age!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

ism of the week - week 6

Each week during our current exhibition, ...isms: Unlocking Art's Mysteries, we will post deeper insight into one of the paintings on view. Past the credit line, past the exhibition label, Assistant Curator Amanda Burdan shares her thoughts:

This image of a laborer was one of several portraits of working class men and women Walker Evans made on a trip to Cuba in 1933. Commissioned to photograph Machado-era Cuba for Carleton Beals’ book The Crime of Cuba, Evans went about his assignment without a specific political agenda. In later years he insisted he had not read the manuscript for the book prior to his trip and went with an open mind to photograph Cuba and its people as he experienced them. A mix of tight portraits, like this one, and scenes capturing both the streets of Havana and the surrounding villages, the resulting portfolio of thirty-one images has since become more widely known than the book they illustrated.

This assignment predates Evans’ work for the Farm Security Administration, but also foreshadows the kind of imagery he, and other so-called “information specialists” working for the United States government, would gather throughout the Depression. Evans’ respectful approach to this coal dock worker trained him for documenting the impoverished conditions of sharecroppers and tenant farmers in this country only a few years later. Evans allows the man’s tanned and leathery skin and bristly beard to narrate the story of the long hours he spent toiling in the Cuban summer sun. In many ways, he does the same in his later photographs of sharecroppers who appear hard-working and noble despite their tattered clothing and dirty faces.

Walker Evans
Dockworker, Havana,

Gelatin silver print

Florence Griswold Museum

Friday, March 16, 2012

ism of the week - week 5

Each week during our current exhibition, ...isms: Unlocking Art's Mysteries, we will post deeper insight into one of the paintings on view. Past the credit line, past the exhibition label, Assistant Curator Amanda Burdan shares her thoughts:

Although Samuel F.B. Morse made a name for himself as the inventor of the telegraph, his early career as a painter and photographer is far less known. While studying art abroad in London, a remark in a letter to his parents in 1811 foreshadowed his future successes, as he wrote: “I wish that in an instant I could communicate the information, but three thousand miles are not passed over in an instant and we must wait four long weeks before we can hear from each other.”

His ambition to be a painter of great American historical subjects, or at least of landscape paintings, met with disappointment when he realized that it was portraiture which truly drove the American art market so early in the nineteenth century. In this respect his mother proved correct when she wrote to him in 1814 saying: “You must not expect to paint anything in this country for which you receive any money to support youself but portraits.” Even in what Morse thought of as the lowly realm of portraiture, he made a good living with commissions of the highest rank, including Presidents James Monroe and John Adams as well as John Hancock and General Lafayette.

The subject of this portrait is less stately and well known. Louisa Walter Bishop Hughes was a well-educated New Haven woman who attended Miss Pierce’s Litchfield Academy from 1818 to 1820. It is likely that this portrait was made around the time she attended the school, perhaps as part of her debut in society. She appears youthful in the portrait, lacking the elaborate fashions and hairstyles Morse often imaged for married women.

Late in her life Louisa recorded her thoughts and sorrows in journals, which have been preserved. After a particularly difficult period, she began a new journal, writing: “I can scarcely make up my mind to begin a new book—I look back upon the past and the eager hope with which I began the last—the change is great. I have drank deep of the bitter cup of Death. My treasures have been taken from me. The record of my life is a record of the graves’ solitary occupants—no, let me say of the inhabitants of heaven. Though I am even bereft of my first born, I will believe God has wounded me in love to them, and for myself, His will, not mine, be done.” Louisa’s mournful lament brings to mind Morse’s first message on his new telegraph in 1844: the fateful question, “What hath God Wrought?”

Samuel F. B. Morse (1791–1892)

Louisa W.B. Hughes

Oil on wood
Florence Griswold Museum

Gift of The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company

Friday, March 09, 2012

ism of the week - week 4

Each week during our current exhibition, ...isms: Unlocking Art's Mysteries, we will post deeper insight into one of the paintings on view. Past the credit line, past the exhibition label, Assistant Curator Amanda Burdan shares her thoughts:

Elmer MacRae’s Still Life with Magnolias is among the newest paintings in the Florence Griswold Museum’s collection. This modern looking painting may seem like a surprising choice for the collection given that MacRae is an important Impressionist from the Cos Cob art colony. He is, perhaps, even more important to the overall history of American art for the work he did as a member of the American Association of Painters and Sculptors, the group that organized and mounted the 1913 International Exhibition of Modern Art, better known as the Armory Show. That pivotal exhibition helped to introduce American audiences to a broad range of the modern styles coming out of Europe. MacRae submitted Impressionist styled works to that exhibition, but soon after came under the influence of the twentieth-century Europeans, updating his style.

This still life, painted two years after the Armory Show moves away from the sketch-like images of his Impressionist years, substituting in bold brush strokes to represent the vase, flowers, and especially the patterned background. MacRae takes a step toward Modernism with the abstract qualities of the worka radical move for a young American at the time, but he may appear to our eyes to remain conservative in his choice of subject matter. In fact, Modernists like Paul Cézanne and Pablo Picasso embraced the simple still life as a vehicle for their more groundbreaking experiments in style.

Elmer Livingston MacRae (1875–1953)

Still Life with Magnolias, 1915

Oil on canvas
Florence Griswold Museum

Museum purchase

Friday, March 02, 2012

ism of the week - week 3

Each week during our current exhibition, ...isms: Unlocking Art's Mysteries, we will post deeper insight into one of the paintings on view. Past the credit line, past the exhibition label, Assistant Curator Amanda Burdan shares her thoughts:

Instrumental in many ways to the establishment of abstract art in the United States, Harry Holtzman is best remembered today for his close friendship with and writing about Piet Mondrian. Holtzman’s colleague, the abstract artist Burgoyne Diller, proved pivotal to his future as an artist. Diller introduced Holtzman to the Gallatin Collection at New York University where Holtzman first encountered Mondrian’s work. Though he had not seen Mondrian’s paintings before, Holtzman had been working in a similar geometric style. Intrigued to the point of obsession, Holtzman traveled to Paris in 1934, intent on meeting Mondrian.

By 1934 Mondrian had firmly established his Neo-Plasticism, an entirely abstract style made upin its ultimate formstrictly of horizontal and vertical lines and primary colors. Mondrian was beginning to experiment with three-dimensional interpretations of his iconic style. The two men shared theories of art and parted as friends when Holtzman returned to the United States the following spring.

Holtzman continued to be active in the New York art world, teaching classes at European modernist Hans Hoffman’s school. He, along with other advanced artists of the period founded the American Abstract Artists group in 1937, to further the cause of abstraction in this country. During the Depression Holtzman also worked as an administrator for the mural painting division of the Federal Art Program, a branch of the Works Progress Administration. In 1940, Holtzman sponsored Mondrian’s immigration to the United States, supporting the artist through the last four years of his life. Mondrian passed away, naming Holtzman as the sole heir to his estate, the administration of which consumed much of his time. The lifelong project of publishing Mondrian’s complete writings only came to fruition months before Holtzman’s death in 1987.

A recent acquisition to the Museum's collection---
Harry Holtzman (1912–1987)

Red, Orange, Green and Yellow

Oil on canvas
Florence Griswold Museum

Museum purchase, Alice Talcott Enders Purchase Fund