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History of Impressionism in Connecticut

Connecticut has been an important hotbed of American Impressionism since the turn of the 20th century. Connecticut’s rivers, unblemished shoreline, rural countryside, and villages became a magnet for American Impressionist painters during a time when America was becoming urban and industrial.  

Many artists who flocked to the state to paint formed art colonies at the Holley House in Cos Cob/Greenwich and Miss Florence Griswold’s boarding house in Old Lyme.

History of Impressionism

Impressionism first emerged as an artistic style in France in the 1860s. This style of painting is characterized by loose brushwork and vivid colors. After the end of the Civil War, American art patrons — especially those who had made fortunes from the war — traveled abroad and took a liking to European culture, including this new style of painting.

To appeal to these potential buyers, American artists also traveled to Europe to learn from their French counterparts. Upon their return, they put a distinctly American twist on this style of painting, creating a new genre and teaching it to subsequent generations of artists. 

As America became more urban and railroads, automobiles, and other new technology emerged, American impressionists often painted expansive landscapes and rural countryside in an attempt to return to nature. This longing for quiet, peaceful rural America is what drew artists to the hills and valleys of Connecticut. 

Key Museum and Historic Sites of Connecticut Impressionism

Due to the legacy of Impressionist artists who made Connecticut their home, many museums in the state are now home to Impressionist masterpieces. As you make your travel plans, here are a few key sites for Connecticut Impressionists to put on your list:

1) Florence Griswold Museum, Old Lyme

This was the location of the Old Lyme Art Colony, the center of American Impressionism. It was originally a boardinghouse run by Florence Griswold where American Impressionist artists lived and painted. The site encompasses 12-acres of historic buildings, grounds, gardens, and walking trails. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1993. 

The museum has one of the best collections of American Impressionism, including works by Joseph and Anni Albers, Sol LeWitt, Walker Evans, and others who transformed American art in the 20th century. 

John Henry Twachtman, Connecticut Shore, Winter, ca. 1889

John Henry Twachtman, Connecticut Shore, Winter, ca. 1889

2) Bush-Holley House, Greenwich

This colonial home was originally built from 1728 – 1730 as a two-story structure overlooking the Cos Cob Harbor. Extensions to the house were added in the succeeding decades. 

At the turn of the 20th century, it became home to the Cos Cob Art Colony and the bedrock of American Impressionism. Among the early members were Childe Hassam, Ernest Lawson, Theodore Robinson, John Henry Twachtman, and J. Alden Weir.

The house is currently managed by the Greenwich Historical Society and holds many important examples of American Impressionist works. The exhibits focus on the art and artists of the Cos Cob art colony, as well as aspects of Greenwich history. 

3) Wier Farm National Historic Site, Wilton

This was once home to Julian Alden Weir, one of the leading figures in American Impressionist art movement. The 60-acre farm is home to beautiful woods, fields, ponds and waterways, as well as Weir’s home and studio. It is the only National Park site dedicated to American painting and art. 

Surrounded by beautiful rural scenes and nature, Weir created numerous works here including: Idle Hours, Upland Pasture, the Truants, and The Laundry, Branchville.

4) New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain

Founded in 1902, this is the first museum in the US dedicated to American Art. The museum hosts 10,000 American works of art from 1740 to the present. 

American Impressionists featured at the museum include Mary Cassatt, Theodore Robinson, John Henry Twachtman, J. Alden Weir, Willard Metcalf, as well as eleven oil paintings by Childe Hassam. 

Through our partnership with New Britain Museum of American Art (NBMAA), our Delamar West Harford is also home to a state-of-the-art gallery featuring permanent collection pieces from the NBMAA and exhibitions year-round.


Discover Connecticut 

Situated a few hours outside of NYC and Boston, Connecticut offers rich history through its beautiful landscapes and exceptional dining. When you’re exploring the rich cultural history of Connecticut, be sure to book your stay at a hotel that offers a convenient home base to your artistic landmarks, but doesn’t compromise on luxurious details, comfort and COVID safe. 

With three convenient and dog-friendly locations throughout Connecticut (Greenwich, Southport and West Hartford), DELAMAR offers the best in gracious accommodations, convenience to historic sites for the whole family and has its own beautiful display of artwork in the lobby of each hotel. 

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