Saying It With Art
Happy New Year! Welcome to your bi-weekly newsletter from Connecticut Explored with the latest stories, the newest Grating the Nutmeg podcast, programs and exhibitions from our partners to see/watch this month, and more!
Winter 2021-2022 / In Their Own Words
Voices from the past—an aspiring gold miner, a 6-year-old girl at sea, a fugitive from slavery, a Patriot at war, a Pequot son, a New Woman artist—all are featured in the Winter 2021-2022 issue. They speak their truth and will transport you back in time!
Milton Avery, “So Close to Hartford”
The photo essay in the Winter 2021-2022 issue features three letters paired with three works of art by Milton Avery, one of America’s leading Modern painters. Erin Monroe, Krieble Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, explores the artist’s connection to Connecticut—and especially to Hartford.
“Born in upstate New York,” Monroe writes, Avery (1885 – 1965) came to Connecticut as a young man and “took his first art classes in Hartford at the School of the Art Society of Hartford, then housed at the Wadsworth Atheneum, and the Connecticut League of Art Students in the 1910s and 1920s.” He first exhibited in Hartford, and though he moved to New York, it was Hartford’s art critics, Monroe writes, that recognized Avery’s work as “‘poetic’ and ‘modern’ well before the New York art world… .”
Still, it wasn’t until some 40 years later that the Atheneum presented a major retrospective of his work in 1953. “At the close of the show” Monroe notes, “the museum purchased its first painting by the artist, Old Orchard (1953). Avery explained the personal significance of this acquisition to then museum director Charles C. Cunningham.
Because I lived in Hartford during my formative years I am especially pleased and honored to have one of my paintings—one which I am especially fond of—in the Atheneum collection. I remember vividly the hours I spent at the museum studying the American landscape painters of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.”
Eleven years later, the Atheneum presented another exhibition, and, Monroe explains, “In honor of the show, the Avery family gave [Dark Inlet] to the museum. Owing to Avery’s declining health at the time, his wife Sally composed a letter sharing their sentiment:
This is the first time we have donated one of Milton’s works to any American museum. Milton feels so close to Hartford and so pleased with the honor the museum has shown him, that he wished in some small way to show his appreciation.”
Find out more in the full story with your print subscription or with an CTExplored/Inbox PREMIUM subscription.
Mary Rogers Williams: “We Shall Want to Do a Lot of Rambling”
In her story in the Winter 2020-2021 issue, Eve Kahn shares the correspondence of two artist soulmates: Hartford-born Mary Rogers Williams (1857 - 1907) and Henry Cooke White (1861 - 1952) of Hartford and Waterford. The friends met in the 1890s and, as Kahn writes, “Their letters convey how much [Mary] and Henry loved Connecticut’s natural beauty, particularly near her family’s farm in Portland’s Cobalt section and Henry’s waterfront summer home in Waterford.”
Williams, the subject of Kahn’s book, Forever Seeing New Beauties: The Forgotten Impressionist Mary Rogers Williams, 1857 - 1907 (Wesleyan University Press), was, Kahn writes, “a baker’s daughter who was orphaned as a teenager and became a cosmopolitan New Woman. … [The two artists] admired each other’s proto-abstract depictions of Connecticut meadows and moonlit groves, rendered in playful flicks of pastel and oil paint.”
In an excerpt from a letter, Williams tried to entice White and his family to visit her in Portland. She and her sister had travelled from Hartford by bicycle, raising eyebrows along the way.
“.. the neighbors … think Laura ought not to perform such feats; they consider me a tough old thing that nothing can harm or hurt. In the face of their croakings Laura and I ... had a lovely ride to Middletown, crossed the new bridge and rode out to our Aunt’s ... . To see the place at all you will have to stay over night and we would like to keep you longer if the crabs and all the other pets can spare you from Waterford. ... I warn you all that it is a genuine country house you are coming to and a place even less thickly settled than Waterford. There are chickens and turkeys, pigs and a cat for John to play with and lovely views for you all.”
Find out about their last correspondence in the full story with your print subscription or with a CTExplored/Inbox PREMIUM subscription.
The Latest from Grating the Nutmeg
State Historian Walt Woodward presents GTN’s Christmas story for 2021. Taken from the celebrated 19th century Guilford author Rev. William Henry Harrison Murray’s1897 book “Holiday Tales: Christmas in the Adirondacks,” meet one of those noble rustic woodsmen, the trapper John Norton, who decides, in counsel with his dogs Rover and Sport, to hold a Christmas dinner to which he will invite even vagabonds. In Norton’s trapper’s world the word vagabond referred to a person who stole other men’s traps and poached their furs, in short, the worst of the worst.
Programs and Exhibitions to Enjoy This Month
Holiday Magic & More
Through January 24, 2022, the Florence Griswold Museum presents Revisiting America: The Prints of Currier & Ives from the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska. Opening February 12, New London County Quilts & Bedcovers, 1750‒1825, showcases the domestic textiles produced in New London County from the mid-18th century to the early 19th-century that stand out today as masterpieces of American needle craft. Curated by independent scholar Lynne Z. Bassett, the exhibition is on view through May 1, 2022.
Florence Griswold Museum, florencegriswoldmuseum.org
Artist’s Empowering Work
Join Hartford Public Library on Friday, January 7, 2022, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., on the library’s ArtWalk for the opening of The Adornment Series: Images of Empowerment by Hartford’s own Michelle Thomas. Thomas creates large-scale works that use ceramic mask-making techniques and found objects to create sculptural portrayals of people of African descent in the United States. “Armed with an empowering narrative, the purpose of this body of work is to offer solutions to reverse psychological imprisonment with positive imagery,” she notes. On view through February 19.
Hartford Public Library, 500 Main Street, Hartford. Hhc.hplct.org
Submit Your Photo!
In celebration of Frederick Law Olmsted’s 200th birthday in 2022, Preservation Connecticut is seeking submissions of your photographs of Connecticut’s historic landscapes for its photo contest. What is a historic landscape? Your photo must show how the landscape has historically been used and shaped by people. Photos taken in the past 2 years are eligible. Find out more at preservationct.org/picturing-history-landscapes.
Explore Modern Architecture
Explore New Haven’s Modernist residential architecture, in addition to icons like the Pirelli Building and Beinecke Library, on newhavenmodern.org. Among the city’s significant Modernist residences is the Frank and Margaret Pannenborg House. Designed by Margaret Pannenborg and constructed in 1971, it represents the only structure of its kind in the neighborhood.
Where Aaron Burr Studied Law
Visit Litchfield from the comfort of your home with the new Tapping Reeve House Virtual Tour. This immersive online experience takes visitors on a journey into the life of a student arriving in Litchfield to study at one of the town’s two important schools, The Litchfield Law School and the Litchfield Female Academy. Explore the legacy of America’s first law school and its students, including Roger Sherman Baldwin and the infamous Aaron Burr. This project is made possible by funding from Connecticut Humanities. litchfieldhistoricalsociety.org/museums/virtualtour/
Litchfield Historical Society, litchfieldhistoricalsociety.org
Stories we love from back issues to read now.
Read all of our art, music, theater, and literary history stories on our Art History Topics page, including:
“Alfred Pope Has Lunch With Monet,” Winter 2004/2005. Read this first-person account
Grating the Nutmeg Episode 107: Florence Griswold Opens Her Home to American Impressionism
Kids’ Page: “Art for Everyone,” Fall 2021
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