Two exhibitions which recently opened at the Bruce Museum show how Connecticut is inextricably linked to the broader art world.
The histories of the Bruce Museum and American Impressionism in Greenwich going back to the early 1900s are reflected in the first exhibit, “Collection Installation: Connecticut Impressionism”. In 1912, members of the Cos Cob Art Colony formed the Greenwich Society of Artists. These American artists, returning from studying in Europe in the 1880s and 1890s, sought a rural respite from bustling cities and the rapid changes brought about by industrialization. Greenwich seemed to meet that need, and they selected the new Bruce Museum for their yearly exhibition. Robert Bruce had bequeathed his home to the town of Greenwich to become a museum for art, history, and natural history.
This exhibit is divided into three sections. The first displays paintings going back to the origins of the Bruce, paintings purchased around 1919, including ones by Charles Harold Davis, George Wharton Edwards, and Matilda Brown.
Leonard Ochtman and his wife, Mina, were instrumental in the formation and development of American Impressionism in Greenwich, where they started an art colony and summer school. The exhibit’s second section displays works by Ochtman and his family.
Paintings in the third section show a range of subjects, including a bridge, boats, and logging in The Mill Pond by Childe Hassam, a family scene by Elmer Livingston MacRae, and a tonal scene by John Henry Twachtman.
Connecticut-based artists played a significant role in the history of 20th-century Modernism, as the second exhibit, “Connecticut Modern: Art, Design, and the Avant-Garde, 1930-1960”, clearly shows. Works by one of America’s most important sculptors, Alexander Calder, who had returned to America from France and settled in Roxbury, delight and engage viewers.
Several other European artists arrived here during that period, including sculptor Louise Bourgeois, surrealist Yves Tanguay, and abstract painter Hilla Rebay. The works of other European-American artists are in the show, among them Bauhaus architect Marcel Breuer; Josef Albers, the first living artist to be given a solo show at the Museum of Modern Art; and Arshile Gorky, who influenced the course of Abstract Expressionism.
The exhibition also includes paintings by major American artists Robert Motherwell, Charles Sheeler, Helen Frankenthaler, Sol LeWitt, Cleve Gray, and Jasper Johns. There are models of houses by famous architects, including one of Phillip Johnson’s Glass House of 1949.
“Collection Installation: Connecticut Impressionism” runs until June. “Connecticut Modern: Art, Design, and the Avant-Garde” is on view until January 7.