FLORENCE GRISWOLD HOUSE by Tonalist WILL HOWE FOOTE
Recently, a poet friend passed the Ole Lyme (CT) exit on her way to Provincetown for their legendary writers’ workshop. “I want to see the Florence Griswold Museum,” she said to herself, “… maybe, on the way back.” But her Self corrected her Self: “NO, I want to see it with Carolyn!” How Betty knew that I have longed to see this center of the Old Lyme Art Colony, –this boarding house of Miss Griswold, which housed some of America’s major tonalist, and later impressionist, artists–, who painted the very walls and doors and panels with Old Lyme scenes, I have no idea. But she made inquiries, has rented us lodging through AirBNB, and she will even drive!
My role, a favorite, is research. Tonalism, an exceptional delicate school of art, evolved in and around Old Lyme in this country. A town of white steeples and picket fences, tousled gardens, and far-stretching meadows toward the sea–, one could say, if Tonalism hadn’t existed, Old Lyme would have had to invent it. As I combed the Internet, I found myself transported from “mists and mellow fruitfulness”, from morning fogs and clouds tip-tilted by sunsets, to wifty views of Miss Florence’s home by my relative, Will Howe Foote.
At D&R Greenway Land Trust, I am Curator of the Olivia Rainbow Gallery, among many other roles. I realize, for the first time, that I am also Curator of the N:JWILDBEAUTY Gallery.
Think back to Monet’s “Impression, Soleil Levant”, from which the movement was named to which some Tonalists would evolve. “Impression, Sun Rising” could be the name of this tonal masterpiece:
Betty and I, in the museums of Old Lyme, will be surrounded by the peace, tranquility and luminosity we so often seek in nature.
Tonalists were very effective with portraits. Perhaps no one did a better job of winter scenes, at least in this country. Sisley and Pissarro are no slouches when it comes to snow, of course, especially in and around Auvers-sur-Oise, northwest of Paris. Our Tonalists made the most of the very American New England landscape.
It is not yet clear to me whether this is the British attitude, or pure reality, that Tonalism all began with Whistler, (the legendary expatriate James Abbot MacNeill Whistler). This theory could be the confection of critics of later centuries. This attribution may be the confection of critics of subsequent centuries…
A group of determined friends and relations managed to save Miss Florence’s home, during the Great Depression, when debts would have forced her to leave. This image, by my relative Will Howe Foote, may be the most famous of her home, which is now the Museum which draws us to Old Lyme.