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Art Break: A Reverse Commute Uncovers Museum Gold in Connecticut

Florence Griswold Museum

By A. E. Colas, Contributing Writer, August 6, 2018

Here at Art Break, we’ve often complained that people don’t realize how much art is available to see outside New York City. Case in point: the great state of Connecticut. Never been? Well, you’re missing out on the best kept secret of the East Coast! Besides the fantastic shoreline and the food that goes with it, there are wonderful museums and lush landscapes that visitors adore year-round. But the best part is how close it is to New York, making it an easy choice for a day trip or long weekend away. Look at our map and start planning a fun trip out of town – you’ll be glad you did.

Bruce Museum

A side view of The Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT; courtesy of the museum.

The Bruce Museum is a unique combination of art and science. Located in Greenwich, this excellent museum has a well-balanced permanent collection of 19th and 20th century items ranging from art to ethnographic materials from North America. In addition, their scientific holdings include over 4,000 vertebrate and invertebrate specimens, along with more than 1,500 mineral samples. They’re also known for their special exhibitions, with four on offer this summer: Expressionism in Print: The Early Works of Richard Haas 1957-64 (June 23 – October 21), iCreate 2018 (June 9 – August 12), National Geographic Photo Ark (June 2 – September 2), and Wild Bees: Photographs by Paula Sharp and Ross Eatman (April 14 – November 11).

Richard Haas, Floating Parts

Richard Haas: Floating Parts, 1962 (ed.1); etching; 15 x 21.5 in.; collection of the artist / courtesy of Richard Haas Studio; photo: Paul Mutino / courtesy of The Bruce Museum.


wild bee

Paula Sharp: Frugal Leafcutter Pollinating Milkweed; copyright Sharp-Eatman Nature Photography; courtesy of The Bruce Museum.


Morgan Great Hall

The Morgan Great Hall at The Wadsworth Atheneum.

The Wadsworth Atheneum is simply a beautiful collection of art. This treasured institution in Hartford inspires everyone from schoolkids to senior citizens with over 45,000 pieces spanning 5,000 years of creative endeavor. Some prized items on permanent display include Hudson River School paintings, the Lifar collection of Ballet Russes paintings and drawings, and a selection of art works collected by J. Pierpont Morgan. The Wadsworth has two summer shows on now, showcasing its ability to embrace the contemporary art scene as well as the historical: Conrad Shawcross/MATRIX 179 (June 21 – October 21) and Frederic Church: A Painter’s Pilgrimage (June 2 – August 26).

Installation view of Conrad Shawcross/MATRIX 179; courtesy of The Wadsworth Atheneum.


Frederic Church

Installation view of Frederic Church: A Painter’s Pilgrimage; courtesy of The Wadsworth Atheneum.


New Britain Museum

Exterior of The New Britain Museum of American Art; courtesy of museum.

The New Britain Museum of American Art is just what it says on the label: a museum of American art. But don’t think this means a collection somewhat lesser or insignificant compared to the other organizations listed. This cultural gem is unique on the East Coast: an institution whose sole purpose is to preserve and display artworks of American artists from colonial times to the present. It’s an impressive roster of names: Gilbert Stuart, John Singleton Copley, Sarah Peale, Albert Bierstadt, John La Farge, Mary Cassatt, Childe Hassam, John Marin, Georgia O’Keefe, Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, Esphyr Slobodkina, Lee Krasner, Paul Manship, Isamu Noguchi, etc. And that’s just the most obvious people — there’s so many great artists to see and learn from that you’ll have to visit more than once. This summer there are four exhibitions available: NEW/NOW: Paul Baylock (May 17 – October 21), Architecture as Muse: American Skyline (March 30 – September 1), Line and Curve: The Ellsworth Kelly and Jack Shear Shaker Collection from Shaker Museum | Mount Lebanon with Prints by Ellsworth Kelly (July 13 – December 31), Art in Farmington Village (August 3 – October 7) and Boundary Conditions (March 9, 2014 – August 31, 2018).

Paul Baylock: Downtown 1, 2013; acrylic on plywood, 28 x 39 in.; courtesy of the artist / New Britain Museum of American Art.


Ellsworth Kelly: Untitled, 1983; lithograph, 29 x 41 in., Artwork © Ellsworth Kelly Foundation and Gemini G.E.L.; Three Shaker Boxes, 1830-60, Shaker Museum | Mount Lebanon; image: courtesy Shaker Museum | Mount Lebanon and Jeff Bailey Gallery.


Florence Griswold House

Florence Griswold Museum; photo: Vincent Scarano.

The Florence Griswold Museum’s mission is two-fold: to be a museum of American Impressionism and to show how the artists lived and worked in this summer colony of Old Lyme. Through tours and gallery spaces, visitors learn how the region was discovered, view paintings, and walk through the landscapes that inspired the works. The museum is also part of the Connecticut Art Trail, an initiative promoting the cultural treasures of the state. There are two current exhibitions on at this time: Art and the New England Farm (May 11 – September 16) and An American Place: The Art Colony at Old Lyme (ongoing).

Florence Griswold Dining Room

The Florence Griswold Dining Room; courtesy of museum.


Childe Hassam: Apple Trees in Bloom, Old Lyme, 1904; oil on panel, 25 x 30 in.; Florence Griswold Museum, Gift of The Vincent Dowling Family Foundation in Honor of Director Emeritus Jeffrey Andersen.


Long Gallery

The Long Gallery in the Yale Center for British Art; courtesy of museum.

Yale Center for British Art is almost beyond description, but we’ll try anyway. If you can imagine a museum dedicated to British art and culture from the late 1550s to the present, with a library of rare books and manuscripts, modern research facilities, in a beautifully designed building by Louis I. Kahn — well, that’s the glorious institution waiting for you in New Haven, less than two hours away from New York City. Four special exhibitions are currently on view: Celia Paul (April 3 – August 12), Art in Focus: John Goto’s “High Summer” (April 6 – August 19), Britain in the World (May 11, 2016 – December 31, 2019), and Salt and Silver: Early Photography 1840 – 1860 (June 28 – September 9).

John Goto, Society

John Goto: Society (High Summer portfolio), 2000–2001; giclée print on Somerset archival paper; Yale Center for British Art, Friends of British Art Fund; courtesy of the artist and Dominique Fiat, Paris, © John Goto; photo: Richard Caspole.


David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson_Five Newhaven Fisherwomen

David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, Five Newhaven Fisherwomen (Mrs. Margaret [Dryburgh] Lyall, Marion Finlay, Mrs. Grace [Finlay] Ramsay, and two other women), ca. 1844, salted paper print from paper negative, courtesy of the Wilson Centre for Photography.


For ZEALnyc‘s complete list of New York City art and museum exhibitions and shows click here.

For the latest news in New York City art, museums and galleries click here.


Cover: The Lieutenant River running by the Florence Griswold Museum, Old Lyme, CT; courtesy of museum.


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