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1992 Polk Museum of Art, St, Lakeland, FL, “Connecticut art and artists”, February 1 – March 29.

February 1, 1992

ECA Record Control Number: 21888

Record Level: Listing

Record Type: Exhibitions

Exhibition Type: Group show

Exhibition Name: Connecticut art and artists

Exhibition Host Name & Location: Polk Museum of Art, St, Lakeland, FL

Exhibition Dates: February 1 – March 29, 1992

Exhibition Additional Location & Dates (For Travel Exhibitions):

Exhibition Sponsor:


1992 Polk Museum of Art, St, Lakeland, FL, “Connecticut art and artists”, February 1 – March 29.

1992 Polk Museum of Art, St, Lakeland, FL, “Connecticut art and artists”, February 1 – March 29.

1992 Polk Museum of Art, St, Lakeland, FL, “Connecticut art and artists”, February 1 – March 29.

1992 Polk Museum of Art, St, Lakeland, FL, “Connecticut art and artists”, February 1 – March 29.

1992 Polk Museum of Art, St, Lakeland, FL, “Connecticut art and artists”, February 1 – March 29.

1992 Polk Museum of Art, St, Lakeland, FL, “Connecticut art and artists”, February 1 – March 29.

1992 Polk Museum of Art, St, Lakeland, FL, “Connecticut art and artists”, February 1 – March 29.

1992 Polk Museum of Art, St, Lakeland, FL, “Connecticut art and artists”, February 1 – March 29.

1992 Polk Museum of Art, St, Lakeland, FL, “Connecticut art and artists”, February 1 – March 29.

1992 Polk Museum of Art, St, Lakeland, FL, “Connecticut art and artists”, February 1 – March 29.

1992 Polk Museum of Art, St, Lakeland, FL, “Connecticut art and artists”, February 1 – March 29.

1992 Polk Museum of Art, St, Lakeland, FL, “Connecticut art and artists”, February 1 – March 29.

1992 Polk Museum of Art, St, Lakeland, FL, “Connecticut art and artists”, February 1 – March 29.

1992 Polk Museum of Art, St, Lakeland, FL, “Connecticut art and artists”, February 1 – March 29.

1992 Polk Museum of Art, St, Lakeland, FL, “Connecticut art and artists”, February 1 – March 29.

1992 Polk Museum of Art, St, Lakeland, FL, “Connecticut art and artists”, February 1 – March 29.

1992 Polk Museum of Art, St, Lakeland, FL, “Connecticut art and artists”, February 1 – March 29.

1992 Polk Museum of Art, St, Lakeland, FL, “Connecticut art and artists”, February 1 – March 29.

1992 Polk Museum of Art, St, Lakeland, FL, “Connecticut art and artists”, February 1 – March 29.

1992 Polk Museum of Art, St, Lakeland, FL, “Connecticut art and artists”, February 1 – March 29.

1992 Polk Museum of Art, St, Lakeland, FL, “Connecticut art and artists”, February 1 – March 29.

1992 Polk Museum of Art, St, Lakeland, FL, “Connecticut art and artists”, February 1 – March 29.

1992 Polk Museum of Art, St, Lakeland, FL, “Connecticut art and artists”, February 1 – March 29.

1992 Polk Museum of Art, St, Lakeland, FL, “Connecticut art and artists”, February 1 – March 29.

1992 Polk Museum of Art, St, Lakeland, FL, “Connecticut art and artists”, February 1 – March 29.

1992 Polk Museum of Art, St, Lakeland, FL, “Connecticut art and artists”, February 1 – March 29.

1992 Polk Museum of Art, St, Lakeland, FL, “Connecticut art and artists”, February 1 – March 29.

1992 Polk Museum of Art, St, Lakeland, FL, “Connecticut art and artists”, February 1 – March 29.

1992 Polk Museum of Art, St, Lakeland, FL, “Connecticut art and artists”, February 1 – March 29.

1992 Polk Museum of Art, St, Lakeland, FL, “Connecticut art and artists”, February 1 – March 29.

1992 Polk Museum of Art, St, Lakeland, FL, “Connecticut art and artists”, February 1 – March 29.

1992 Polk Museum of Art, St, Lakeland, FL, “Connecticut art and artists”, February 1 – March 29.



An exhibition of
The Fine Arts Collection of
The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection
and Insurance Company

Polk Museum of Art
Lakeland, Florida
February 1 through March 29

The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company is proud to participate in this exhibit at the Polk Museum of Art. Connecticut Art and Artists presents a selection of fine art in this country between the years 1815 to 1940 and includes works of unschooled originality as well as avant guard works of their day and works capturing the essence of refined expression. The uniting element in the exhibit is the sense of a place—Connecticut—and of its people. These works characteristically represent thoughtful interpretations of period styles, soverly decorative and rather more pleasing than grand. Their restraint does not diminish the artistry; the scale and appeal is intimate and human. Our Company has drawn much of our strength and success from the same sense of character and enduring cultural heritage that inspired the artist represented in this collection of Connecticut Art and Artists.

This exhibition and catalogue is the result of the generous assistance and support of numerous individuals. From its conception, Ken Rollins, Director of the Polk Museum of Art, has enthusiastically embraced this exhibit, nurturing it along, both in Hartford and Lakeland. It has been a great pleasure for me to work on this project with Ken. Christoph Gerozissis, Curator of Exhibitions, has graciously collaborated with us each step of the way. In Hartford, Randi Joseph Brandt, Curatorial Assistant at The Hartford Steam Boiler, has played an invaluable role in assisting in all aspects of the exhibit and catalogue and her help is most appreciated.

Judith Lefebvre
Assistant Vice President and Curator of Art and Antiques
It is with great pleasure that we present to citizens of Polk County and Central Florida this collection of American paintings. This body of work, collected and preserved by The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company, not only reflects an important period of American art history, but also presents an eloquent statement concerning the significant role corporate American can play in helping preserve and interpret a part of our cultural heritage. The role of “Good corporate citizenship” has never been so clearly documented.

A project of this magnitude could not happen without the generous committment and support of a number of individuals. First and foremost, to Mr. Wilson Wilde, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company, I would like to extend our most sincere gratitude and appreciation for the loan of these works of art. The leadership he has exhibited in fostering the development of this collection and his willingness to loan this exceptional body of work to our museum is a quintessential example of a corporate executive with vision, sensitivity and a recognition of the impact corporate America can have not only on this country’s economy, but on the quality of life of its citizenry as well. As the parent company of Diagonal Data Corporation based here in Lakeland, The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company is demonstrating their commitment to our community through the loan of this collection.

Also, we are very much indebted to Mr. and Mrs. Frank Foster for conceptualizing the idea for this exhibition and for making the necessary contacts and introductions to bring it to fruition. Frank Foster is the founder of Diagonal Data Corporation, and is presently a museum Trustee. Patti Foster is an active community volunteer, past president of the Board of Trustees and a current member of the Board of Governors. This community-minded couple has once again demonstrated their commitment to this institution and the citizens of Polk County. Through their tireless efforts Patti and Frank have demonstrated how important the volunteer sector is in making our museum a continuing success. For all they have done we are truly grateful.

Additionally, I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to Ms. Judith Lefebvre, Assistant Vice President and Curator of Art and Antiques for The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company. For approximately two years, I have had the pleasure of working with Judith. Here in Lakeland, during a visit to Hartford and numerous other contacts. Without exception she has been generous and forthcoming with her ideas, with her spirit of cooperation and in sharing her extensive knowledge of this collection with which she has been so deeply involved for a number of years. It has been a pleasure to share this experience.

As always, I am indebted to this museum’s Board of Trustees and Board of Governors who continually, year after year, do all that is necessary in this community to keep the Polk Museum of Art strong and available to our public. I also recognize the exceptional work of the support staff of the Polk Museum of Art, and particularly, our Curator of Exhibitions, Christoph Gerozissis, and Registrar, Eden Wilson, as well as the other members of the exhibit design/installtion team, Argy Kalogridis, Walt Kellems, and Shannon Howell.

On behalf of the Board of Trustees and Board of Governors, I hope you thoroughly enjoy this exhibition and that your knowledge of this period of American art history is enhanced.

Ken Rollins
Executive Director
Polk Museum of Art
January 1992
Edited from an essay by Harold Spencer as it appeared in Connecticut Masters, Connecticut Treasures, Wadsworth Atheneum

During the last half of the nineteenth century, American landscape painting was exceptionally responsive to recent developments in France, as Paris assumed the role of the leading art center and attracted more and more Americans to its academies and its magnetic milieu. Beginning in the 1850s, some Americans studying in France discovered the Barbizon school of landscape painting and drawn to its moods and techniques, brought back to the United States their American versions. Then, in the mid-1880s, a number of American artist abroad began to take note of French Impressionism and to accept certain aspects of it, chiefly technical. On their return home, they too, estatblished a distinctly American variant of the French movement. Both of these French-derived movements keenly appealed to painters working in Connecticut, and paintings in the Barbizon and Impressionist modes are a special strength of The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company collection.

The village of Barbizon by the Forest of Fontainebleau, about thirty miles from Paris, had become a center for French landscape painting in the 1830s. The reveries of the Barbizon painters on the beauty and virtues of rustic life were often moody variations on the landscape vision of John Constable, some of whose views of his native Suffolk, England had received conspicuous honors in the Paris Salon of 1824. This, Charles Baudelaire would note in his review of the Paris Salon of 1846 that the landscapes of Barbizon painter Theofore Rousseau had to do with memories of English painting as well as a deep and serious love of nature. (1) The poetry of William Wordsworth was also an influence; when the Barbizon painter Jean Francois Millet spoke of the “sad fate of humanity—weariness,” it bore the sound of the English poet’s “still, sad music of humanity.” (2) The American painter William Morris Hunt had become a close friend of Millet at Barbizon, while his compatriot George Inness encountered the movement abroad chiefly through the paintings of Rousseau. When Hunt and Inness returned to the United States in the mid-1850s, they carried Barbizon ideas with them, and by the 1880s the style had become a pervasive current in American tastes.

Brooding Barbizon landscapes evoked feelings as antithetic to later Impressionism as darkening passages to a sun-drenched street. Barbizon painters, however, had to some extent practiced painting out of doors in direct confrontation with natural fluctuations of light and weather. The directness with which the early Impressionst vision transcribed the natural world, summarizing and matching the dominant color tones of the scene before it, owes something to the Barbizon precedent of plein-airism.

Other Barbizon contributions to Impressionism were sketchlike execution and assertive paint surfaces, occasionally stippled or thickly impasted to represent as well as to catch the effects of light. The light and atmosphere in Barbizon painting, as in Constable’s landscapes somewhat earlier, struck a balance between the materiality of tangible things and the immateriality of the light that touched them. This dualism of the material and the immaterial would be erased decades later in Monet’s series of paintings based on the facade of the Rouen Cathedral, where light and the substance of solids are indistinguishable, creating a granular, translucent luminosity distilled out of the chromatic properties of natural light. An extreme instance of this melting of forms into a luminous veil can be seen in American Impressionist Edmund Greacen’s The Lady in the Boat of 1921, where the ethereal delicacies of the process suggest the example of James McNeill Whistler and the impact on the West of an Oriental sensibility.

What is popularly identified as Impressionism usually comes down to painting techniques, to two distinct modes of representation: the summarizing of a subject in radically reductive but literal terms by means of broadly painted patches of color, and the rendering of a picture by discrete touches of color that break up the total surface into a microstructure of relatively small units, a technique sometimes called “broken color.” In the history of French Impressionism the first of these techniques—exemplified by Monet’s La Grenouillere—proceded the second. Among the American Impressionists in this exhibition, the second manner is represented by such works as Childe Hassam’s Ten Pound Island and Ernest Lawson’s Connecticut Landscape.

For Americans, the rural themes of the Barbizon and Impressionist modes carried with them a residue of values from the past. Earlier landscape painting, celebrating the picturesque and sublime aspects of the native landscape, had infused American scenery with poetic sentiment and intimations of sacred presence. And it held firmly to a moral viewpoint that saw communion with nature as a means of spiritual renewal. The roots of these ideas lay in pantheistic, transcendental, literary, and artistic sources on both sides of the Atlantic; from Wordsworth to Constable, among others, to such Americans as Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Cullen Bryant, and Thomas Cole. By the time the American Barbizon tradition became established, the American vision of nature had passed from literary and philosophical realms into popular sentiment. (3)

Although American artists were attracted to the techniques of French Impressionism, it was often a guarded acceptance. Thus, even works that appear to be quite thoroughly Impressionist will often reveal a characteristic American respect for the materiality of things and a tendency to render objects with traditional light, shadow, and local color, more tonal in effect than chromatic in the French sense. One can see, for instance, in Childe Hassam’s Ten Pound Island a trace of this in the foliage, where the mass is defined chiefly by light and shadow in various tones of green, even as the brushwork is fully Impressionist. And in Edward Simmons’ Brook in Spring, the handling evokes the material substance of things more than it seeks the sheen of light.

By the 1890s, when American Impressionism was emerging into public attention, American audiences had already seen major French Impressionist works at exhibitions in New York and Boston, and American collectors were already acquiring Impressionist paintings. (4) At the World’s Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893, in a showing gathered from private collections in the United States, one could see paintings by Manet, Monet, Degas, Pissarro, Renoir, and Sisley and a number of the American Impressionists exhibited in the American section of the art palace Seven of these Americans—J. Alden Weir, Childe Hassam, John H. Twachtman, Willard Metcalf, Edward Simmons, Robert Vonnoh, and Leonard Ochtman—are represented in this exhibition.

In 1897, J. Alden Weir joined some of these artists in forming a coalition called The Ten American Painters or simply The Ten. This enterprise was not a rebellion in the usual philosophical sense, but a means of abandoning the large annual exhibitions of the Society of American Artists (to which they had belonged) in favor of smaller showings The Ten exhibited for the first time in the spring of 1898 and continued to do so until 1918. Although not organized as an Impressionist enclave, The Ten were in varying degrees adherents of American Impressionism. Besides Weir, the present exhibition features works by four other members of The Ten John H Twachtman, Childe Hassam, Willard Metcalf, and Edward C. Tarbell, Frank W. Benson, Robert Reid, and Joseph DeCamp. William Merritt Chase joined the group upon Twachtman’s death in 1902. By its identification with this group, American Impressionism became more visible as a distinct entity.

The fact that New England figured importantly in the work of these artists was a matter of some consequence. Here a dialogue between the artist and the land had been going on for some time, thriving at least since the heyday of the Hudson River School, some of whose members ranged as far as the coast of Maine. The picturesque charms of the region attracted more than the painters, however, as the sojourns of the artists preceded or mingled with the growth of the summer resorts in New England. (5) Eventually, in many corners of the region, the easels of plein-air painters and the strolling crowds of summer vacationers would appear as natural to the place as the scenery that had attracted them all.

The Barbizon and Impressionist artists who painted in Connecticut were not all summer birds of passage flocking castward from studios in sweltering Manhattan. Many settled in Greenwich and Cos Cob, Old Lyme, Mystic, Noank, Essex, Falls Village, and elsewhere. Some of these communities developed into a melange of artists, writers, art students, vacationers, and old residents with social interaction of predictable range. The genial hospitality of J. Alden Weir at his farms in Branchville and Windham drew many artists friends, most of whom found subjects to paint in these locales. Summer schools of painting in which some of the artists taught and art colonies where they helped to spread the new styles and called attention to the charms of the Connecticut landscape: villages that preserve the past, stony fields, upland ledges, farms, weathered by the years, ponds, marshlands, meandering brooks, and picturesque stone walls that persistently sectioned the land. These themes, as well as harbor and shoreline, woods and skies, all tempered by the seasons from spring to winter, found their way into much of the art in this collection, lending form to sense of place.

Other parts of New England were also popular summer resorts. Mount Desert Island in Maine had become a renowned summer retreat by 1860, but its rugged coastal scenery had already drawn artists to it for an entire generation. Beginning around 1848 Applefore, in Isles of Shoals, New Hampshire, acquired a reputation as a summer sanctuary for literary personalities like James Russell Lowell, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and John Greenleaf Whittier. Poet Ceila Thaxter, the daughter of the Island hotel’s proprietor, was a popular figure there and became a close friend of Childe Hassam, who often came to paint. His watercolor illustrations for her delightful book, An Island Garden, were reproduced by elaborate chromolithography and he, in turn, was the subject of a sonnet written by the poet four years before her death in 1894. William Morris Hunt, who spent his last days at Appledore, also—from 1856 to 1862—maintained a studio in Newport, Rhode Island, which became the most opulent of resorts by the end of the nineteenth century. Massachusetts areas like Cape Ann and Cape Cod were host to generations of artists as well as the eventual summer throngs. Provincetown, at the tip of Cape Cod, became a center of artistic activity early in the twentieth century due largely to the presence of painter Charles W. Hawthorne, who began holding summer classes there when it was more of a fishing village than a picturesque attraction to vacationing crowds from Boston and New York.

The technology of transportation contributed to the growth of the art colonies, the resorts, and subsequently the general population in the region, for during the height of American Impressionist activity, there was excellent rail service between New York City and New England, especially neighboring Connecticut. Eventually the automobile would complete the work begun by the railroad: the suburbanization of the Connecticut shore and countryside nearest Manhattan.

Emphasis on the Connecticut landscape in this exhibition affords the viewer an opportunity to look back in time across the state, from place to place, from season to season, with renewed appreciation for the enduring qualities of the Connecticut scene and the paintings that celebrate it. Many decades have passed since these works were created, but the images have for us a familiar look, as of something seen the day before yesterday, for one can travel the back roads and encounter their likes still on the land.

In the works of this exhibition, irrespective of personal idiom, one senses that same deep serious love of nature that Baudelaire found in Barbizon painting. At the very end of the nineteenth century, Henry Ward Ranger found in the environs of Old Lyme his personal Barbizon. In his Mason’s Island of 1905 he transplants the Forest of Fontainebleau to the Connecticut woods with formulaic faithfulness. A sun-patched forest clearing is bordered by dark masses of foliage, dense, weighty—a still, timeless, somber sanctuary. Ranger’s enthusiasm for the area as a painting ground was instrumental in attracting other artists to Old Lyme, where he became the center of a colony of painters who transcribed the local landscape in works that frankly displayed their European inspiration. Ranger and his associates were labeled “tonalists” for their emphasis on limited range of color tones, often dominated by the earth colors in their palettes. (6)

Several works demonstrate how the Barbizon-tonalist vein was not impervious to Impressionist infiltrations. Dwight W. Tryon’s Evening, Autumn stands somewhere between the melancholy poetry of tonalism and the tranforming light of Impressionist atmophere. Tryon’s work in this manner almost invariably maintains the porous, sponge-like surface texture that developed within the Barbizon school and reemerged in the light-saturated, granular surfaces of some late Impressionism.

Allen B. Talcott, one of the Old Lyme artists, reveals his tonalist affinities in both the loosely rendered River Island and in his Spring Blossoms, where the tone of his umber-stained ground permeates the oil sketch. Leonard Ochtman, of the Cos Cob group is more tonalist than Impressionist in his Landscape, reminiscent of Inness.

A communal spirit seems to have prevailed in the art colonies of Cos Cob and Old Lyme, the artists generally being sociable types, many of them drawn together by common experiences abroad, some by close friendships established there as well as by the scenic beauties they shared as painters of the Connecticut landscape. Childe Hassam dubbed the former group “the Cos Cob Clapboard School of Art,” as the frame houses of that village were so often their subject. In Old Lyme, the Barbizon-tonalists led by Ranger soon gave way to the Impressionist with Hassam’s arrival in 1903 at Miss Florence Griswold’s place where Ranger had first found room and board in the summer of 1899. The transition was complete when Ranger moved to Noank in 1904 and some of his entourage, staying on at Old Lyme, converted in varying degrees to Impressionist enthusiasm generated by the lively Hassam. The Florence Griswold House today is a unique repository of art and memorabilia relating to these two successive colonies headquartered there. Hassam is said to have called it “Holy House” in a punning reference to the Holley House in Cos Cob where artists and writers lodged.

It is said that Danish-born Emil Carlsen had intended to go to Old Lyme around 1905, but a railroad agent gave him a ticket to Lime Rock instead. Looking around his chance destination and finding nearby Falls Village to his liking, he bought a house and settled there permanently near the Housatonic River in the northwestern corner of the state. There is something here, too, of luminist quietism; his work Moonlight which has something of Barbizon moodiness, the painting, in particular, is reminiscent also of Albert Pinkham Ryder’s darkness and a reminder of Carlsen’s close friendship with J. Alden Weir, at whose Windham residence Carlsen was sometimes a guest.

Frederick Childe Hassam had acquired sound professional skills in Boston, showing strongly in his street scenes painted there before he went to Paris in 1886 to study at the Academie Julian. In Paris, continuing the street motif in paintings like Le Jour de Grand Prix (1887, New Britian Museum of American Art) he began to explore the broken color brushwork of Impressionism and, abandoning the deeper tones of his Boston pictures, to paint in a brighter sunlit key. He would continue frequently to paint urban scenes on his return to America, the only one of the major half-dozen American Impressionists to do so to any significant extent.

Hassam’s painting after his conversion to Impressionism consistenly revealed his understanding of the French Impressionist broken color technique. His touch was generally bold and assured; in Ten Pound Island, a Gloucester, Massachusetts scene, it is close to Monet’s handling in many respects, except for the tonal modeling of forms and the way the earth-toned ground of the canvas shows through in pinpoint interstices through-out the painting. Although this “screen” of pale umberish tone works handily with the textures of brushwork and pigment to created an Impressionist veil of palpable atmophere and colored light, one is tempted to see it also as a stubborn lingering of earlier ways of painting in which artists built up their forms from the tabula rasa of a toned ground.

The Ledges, October in Old Lyme of 1907 is a more complex painting stylistically, for here Hassam displays in his deliberate brush strokes and the rhythmic order of the tree trunks a pattern of structure that borders on Post-Impressionism, a tendency even more pronounced in such works as his Bridge at Old Lyme (The University of Georgia, Georgia Museum of Art) painted the following year. While there appears to be some degree of conscious formalism in the composition, there is also a suggestion of an American predisposition to register the substance of things, the material presence, in the definition of mass and weightiness of forms in the scene. The subtitle of the painting is scarecly necessary, for the autumnal golds and grays proclaim the season.

In The Village in Spring, probably painted in the spring of 1923 at Chester Depot, Vermont, Willard Metcalf has drawn closer to later phases of Impressionism by depicting the subject loosely with small strokes of color and with areas of raw canvas showing through the open handling. The screen of white birches in the foreground and the clapboard houses beyond them asset a New England identity. Although Metcalf was a conspicuous member of the Old Lyme group, he painted extensively in these more northerly sections of New England. After the artist’s death in March, 1925, the Literary Digest for April 1 of that year reproduced this painting, noting that it had also been on the cover of the magazine’s January 26, 1924, issue.

Like Hassam, Metcalf studied at the Academie Julian in Paris after beginning his professional career in the United States. An illustrator in his pre-Paris years, he drew attention for his drawings for a series of articles on the Zuni Indians that appeared in Century magazine in 1882-83, a project that took him briefly to the Southwest. In France, where in 1887 he discovered Giverny (Monet’s home from 1883 on) he met other Americans, including Hassam and Twachtman.

Twachtman has long been regarded as on of the most individual and subjective American artist of his time. His professional training in Europe, which ranged from Munich to Paris, began in his native Cincinnati, Ohio, where he studied with Frank Duveneck, a Munich-trained painter influential in promoting that school’s dark, bravura manner. In 1875 Twachtman accompanied Duveneck to Germany and spent two years in the Munich ambience.

In 1877 he traveled to Venice in the company of Duveneck and William Merritt Chase, and during the next few years he journeyed back and forth between America and Europe before commencing studies at the Academie Julian in 1883. Here his friendships developed with Hassam and Metcalf, and also with Frank Benson, Robert Reid, and Edmund Tarbell, all to be fellow members of The Ten some years later. Twachtman’s close association with J. Alden Weir had already ripened in New York by the early 1880s, and he had toured Europe with Weir and other artists shortly after his marriage in 1881. The American Impressionists, diversity of styles apart, were clearly inclined to flock together, abroad and at home.

In Paris, Twachtman drifted away from the dark Munich manner to paint in a cool tonal style whose refined abstract design, reducing his landscape subjects to somewhat simplified flat patterns, seemed to acknowledge the growing taste for japonaiserie. Twachtman’s Connecticut Shore, Winter retains little more than the asymmetrical design and abstract substructure of his pre-Impressionist French phase. It is painted with spontaneous, self-assured verve, a direct transcription boldly sumarizing the bulk and rigging of the ships and the stretch of the ice-locked shore. While the painting recalls in a general way Monet’s harbor and the shore scenes of the last half of the 1860s, it is more particularized in its representation of the subject. In conception and handling, his later Gloucester approaches more closely the characteristics of the refined style of the mid-1880s. If any American Impressionist could be said to approach that absorption of the material into the immaterial achieved by Monet in his later years, it was surely Twachtman, whose vision also recast the American poetry of nature into a new, haunting, lyric form.

By the first two decades of the twentieth century, when many of the American Impressionist works in this collection were painted, European art had experienced a series of radical transformations, from Cubism to Expressionism and all their variants, that would eventually shift the course of American art into modernist channels. Here and there in this exhibition, individual works appear to recognize the roots of European modernism that lay in Post-Impressionism. There is a lively expressionistic exuberance to the brushwork in Charles H. Davis’ Hillside Road, Mystic that recommends the work of this artist as worthy of serious attention.

The painting that celebrates Connecticut’s state flower—Edward Rook’s Laurel—melds Impressionist handling with Post-Impressionist pattern to effect a balance that verges on decorativeness, a characteristic frequently encountered in the American phase of Impressionism. Rook’s large canvas is particularly notable for its accomodation of Impressionist impasto, microstructure, and gentle variations of light to the assertive presence of flower clusters, rocks, and trees; an interplay of the material with the immaterial that Baudelaire had noted in Barbizon paintings many decades earlier. If the greens of the distant landscape are somewhat unnatural and arbitrary, they nonetheless spring from the mood of the season. Rook’s painting could stand as an example of fundamental aspects of American Impressionism: its subject recalls the pastoral poetic content of earlier American landscape painting that became an almost inseparable accompaniment to an American sense of place; its composition, harkening back through Barbizon conventions to picturesque and classical traditions, emphasizes both the near-at-hand identity of nature’s forms and the distant view of pastoral tranquility that brings Constable to mind, while its technical procedure is adapted from the French Impressionists.

The anatomy of American Impressionism is more complex than was once perceived. In techniques and general appearance it may proclaim the European source, may seem equally committed to the immediacies of moment and place “with the sight of simple seeing,” to use Hartford poet Wallace Stevens’ phrase. (7) But these works also register the spirit of an American typology that was born in a romantic era and nourished over the years by American literature and popular sentiment.

The proof of the poet is that his country absorbs him as affectionately as he has absorbed it.

Thus Walt Whitman closed the Preface to the 1855 edition of his Leaves of Grass. In its own time, American Impressionism was accorded a generous measure of public affection and its own optimistic spirit lavished affection in turn on American places which that same public had come to view as sancturaries in a hasty world. The landscapes in the paintings and the landscapes in the expectations of those who viewed them sympathetically were in full accord. Today we may reflect on this exchange and ask if here in these paintings reside our own cherished images of New England’s—and Connecticut’s—sense of place.
(1) Charles Baudelaire, Art in Paris 1845-1862: Salons and Other Exhibitions Reviewed by Charles Baudelaire, trans. Jonathan Mayne (London: Phaidon, 1965), 109.

(2) Julia Cartwright, Jean Francois Millet: His Life and Letters (New York: Macmillan, 1902), 106; William Wordsworth, “Lines Composed a Few Miles About Tintern Abbey” (1798).

(3) See Harold Spencer, “Reflections on Impressionism, Its Genesis and American Phase,” Connecticut and American Impressionism (exh. cat., William Benton Museum of Art, Storrs, Conn., 1980, 30-55, for more thorough account.)

(4) Hans Huth, “Impressionism Comes to America,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts, series 6, 29 (April 1946), 225-252.

(5) Hans Huth, Nature and the American (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1957), 105-128.

(6) See Wanda M Corn, The Color of Mood, American Tonalism 1880-1910 (exh. cat. M. H. DeYoung Museum, San Francisco, 1972) and Peter Bermingham, American Art in the Barbizon Mood (exh. cat. National Collection of Fine Arts, Washington, D.C., 1975).

(7) From “An Ordinary Evening in New Haven,” of Wallace Stevens (N.Y.: A. Knopf, 1964), 471.



…Emil Carlsen (1853-1932)
Moonlight, 1887
Oil/canvas, 16-3/4″ x 24-5/8″

Emil Carlsen (1853-1932)
Night, Old Windham, 1904
Oil/canvas, 50-1/2″ x 40″…




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©2013-2017 Emil Carlsen Archives

Digital-born Publication Title: Emil Carlsen Archives
Publication Subtitle: World's Largest Visual Reference Dedicated to the Preservation of the Work of Danish-American Impressionist/Realist Painter, Emil Carlsen [1848-1932]
Library of Congress Subject Authority Heading: Carlsen, Emil, 1853-1932
Emil Carlsen LC control no.: n 85141186
Publication Type: Online Integrating Resource
Language: English
Creator/Author: Emil Carlsen Archives
Published by: Emil Carlsen Archives, 266 West 21st Street, New York, NY 10011
Edition: First
Frequency of Updates: Daily
Publish Date: 2013 –
End Date: none, continuing
Hosting: Single server (no mirrors)

MARC Organization Code: 41959
MARC Org Code: NyNyECA
MARC Org Code: normalized: nynyeca
Publisher ISSN : forthcoming