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Our Lady Collegiate church in Vernon
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Vernon half-timbered houses
A whole site about our numerous old houses (In French only, sorry !)
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Vernon Giverny Website auf deutsch

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The Old Mill in Vernon
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Monet's house and garden at Giverny
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The XIIth c. castle keep in Vernon
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Visits, indeed, but there are so many other things to do in Vernon
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Walking and cycling around Vernon
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Museums in Vernon (paintings by Monet) and Giverny
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A walk in the streets of Giverny
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The water lily pond at Giverny
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Tourelles castle in Vernon
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Giverny in Uncle Sam's country :
Old Lyme
and Cos Cob



We often talk here about the American artists of Giverny, we even use the word " an American colony" but we tend to forget that the majority of them spent only a few weeks there, a summer season or a few months at best. What did they do next? Where did they go? These questions are hardly ever asked and it is as if these artists had simply stopped painting and vanished. However, most of them continued their careers in their own countries where they often gathered in new "colonies", just to mention among the most important ones: Old Lyme or Cos Cob, on the north-east coast of the United States.

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Old Lyme, a small village in Connecticut (between New York and Boston) was discovered 10 1889 by the painter Henry Ward Ranger, a follower of the Barbizon school. He was so enthralled that he settled there and encouraged his friends to come with him. This is how a kind of "American Barbizon" was born.

This small village on the Connecticut River was easy to access from New York by train. Its is located in a marshy district with estuaries and salt meadows, picturesque hills, shimmering expanses of water, granite outcroppings and old farms surrounded by stone walls. Many years before artists settled there, a visitor had already written in 1876 "The variety in the landscape would drive an artist to distraction. It is a singular mixture of the wild and the tame, of the austere and the cheerful."

In 1903, Childe Hassam came to Lyme for the first time. This painter was a member of the impressionist school and after him came lots of other Impressionist artists so that Lyme switched from being an "American Barbizon" to an "American Giverny", a name that the village still proudly bears. Among the newcomers, there was Willard Metcalf, the very man who is said to have discovered Giverny. In no time at all, Lyme became "the most famous Impressionist-oriented art colony in America."(William H. Gerdts, American Impressionism (New York1984) "


Willard L. Metcalf, Birches, 1907. Smithsonian American Art Museum

Is it possible to explain in a few words the difference between an American impressionist and a French one? This is a difficult task because of the diversity in both style and subject matter not only from artist to artist but even from canvas to canvas by the same painter.

However, a few trends can be suggested : in the introduction to the exhibition entitled "A Matter of Style: The Influence of French Art on the Old Lyme Art Colony", (October 2004 at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme)one reads : " In comparison to the French Impressionists, many of the Lyme Impressionists adopted the style of their French counterparts, but were selective as to their choice of subject matter. [… They avoided subjects that were unsettling. In addition, while they painted the same subject over and over, they did so without the scientific rigor of the French."
Michael Lloyd, a specialist on painters of the Lyme Art Colony also writes: "In general, it can be said that American Impressionists tended to retain more structure and realism in their work, although it is difficult, as with the French, to label such an enormous body of work under one umbrella."

This means that instead of merely copying the French style, they re-interpreted it, blending European techniques with their own American approaches and genius. But despite these differences, both groups knew that the real subject was the overall sense of light.

In Old Lyme, artists quickly gathered in Miss Florence Griswold's boarding house and it became a kind of Hotel Baudy as in Giverny. The house was known as the Home of the Artists, or as Childe Hassam dubbed it, The Holy House. Florence Griswold's welcome and the price - a mere $7 a week for board plus the friendly presence of other artists - was hard to resist and the owner had to enlarge the house and convert outbuildings into studios.


Florence Griswold's house
 



Florence Griswold in the dining room]
A cheerful crowd spent the summer months there, having their meals in the dining room, the walls of which were soon decorated with drawings and paintings as in Hotel Baudy. It is Metcalf who suggested this decoration, exactly as he is said to have painted a scene on the wall of Hotel Baudy, fifteen or twenty years earlier.

From 1890 until about 1920, impressionist painters lived in another place, the site of a lively art colony : Cos Cob (a hamlet of Greenwich - Connecticut). The colony's focal point was the Holley family's boardinghouse. In 1890, Cos Cob was as important as Argenteuil had been in the 1870s to Monet, Renoir, and Manet.

Bush-Holley house


Low Tide at Cos Cob, Theodore Robinson, Manoogian Collection, 1894

Painters such as John Henry Twachtman, Theodore Robinson and Childe Hassam and the diversity of the other residents, novelists, essayists and journalists, stimulated lively discussions on aesthetic issues and contributed to making Cos Cob "a bohemian enclave of avant-garde art" as wrote Dr Larkin, a specialist of this place.
Somewhat later, it is again Cos Cob painters who organised the 'Armory Show', the 1913 landmark exhibition that revealed European modernism to the United States.

Today, very much like Giverny, Old Lyme and Cos Cob are art centres with a museum dedicated to the painters that worked there, a historic place - Florence Griswold's and the Bush-Holley's house- and the presence of numerous artists who come there to wok or to exhibit their paintings in the galleries of the villages that still retain the atmosphere that prevailed there a century ago.


Very special thanks to Mr Michael Lloyd who helped us prepare this page and whose Website 'The Lyme Art Colony: an American Giverny ' (http://www.lymeart.com) is a must for discovering American impressionism, a moment of the history of art that is still too obscure. Do not hesitate to visit this website...

 Webography :

Old Lyme Art and American Impressionsim
http://www.lymeart.com/

Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme
http://www.flogris.org

A Matter of Style: The Influence of French Art on the Old Lyme Art Colony Exhibition in the Florence Griswold Museum October 9, 2004 - April 17, 2005
http://www.tfaoi.com/aa/4aa/4aa582.htm

Bush-Holley Historic Site in Cos Cob
http://www.hstg.org/index.cgi/632


  A selection of a few other pages about Monet and Giverny
* Welcome to Giverny
* Giverny, an American colony
* Monet, the Seine and Normandy
* The gardener and his art

and, to end the day in Giverny, a nice walk in the hills above the village