WEATHERBOUND: The Art of Jay Hall Connaway In Our Time

by Ruth Greene-McNally


Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970) Chronology

1893: Jay Hall Connaway is born in Liberty, Indiana to May and Cass Connaway. Cass is a prominent Liberty lawyer and a collector of Chinese art.
ca. 1900: Jay Connaway begins painting and drawing.
1910-1911: At age of seventeen, Jay Connaway enrolls at the John Heron Art Institute in Indianapolis to begin formal training.
1911-1913: Connaway studies under William Merritt Chase and George Bridgman at the Art Students League and attends classes at the National Academy of Design in New York City. He becomes acquainted with Robert Henri, a leading figure of the Ashcan School.
1911-1914: Connaway works his way cross-country stoking engines for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad. He makes his way through Arizona, New Mexico, and along the California coast.
While touring the Northeast, Connaway works several different jobs including working for a fishing fleet off Newfoundland. Takes a job as a cook in a lumber camp in Washington County, Maine so that he can study rock formations and swells of the sea.
1914: Connaway is asked to participate in a mural project for the Wishard Hospital in Indianapolis. He paints three works for the mural project. It is not known if Connaway paints the murals on site or ships them from the East. It is likely that Connaway has just recently finished his formal education at the Art Students' League when he joins the project. The hospital murals were found in a storeroom during remodeling in 1967. These quiet landscapes are decidedly Impressionistic. The murals have been conserved by the Indiana Museum of Art and are on display in the Burdsal units of Wishard Hospital in Indianapolis.
1916: Connaway meets George Milch, owner of Milch Galleries.
1917: Enlists with the Allied European Forces to serve in France during World War I where he becomes a cartographer.
1918: Connaway suffers a shoulder wound. While recovering in Lilly Base Hospital 32, a hospital organized for the war effort by Eli Lilly Co., a pharmaceutical firm in Indianapolis, he assists doctors at a volunteer-staffed Red Cross outpost hospital in Contrexeville, France, located in the foothills of the Vosges Mountains. Here, while on duty under Major Lafayette Page, Connaway is assigned to do anatomical drawings in color of lesions to the throat and lungs caused by mustard gas exposure, an assignment Connaway called "the most wonderful work of my life."
1919: Connaway is discharged from active duty. Sponsored by a number of army doctors, he continues his studies at Academie Juian under Jean Paul Laurens.
Connaway has his first painting, Harmonies du soir accepted for the Paris Autumn Salon. Although his father is bitterly opposed to Jay's becoming an artist, he continues study in Paris at the Academie Julian under Laurens.
1920: Marries Flora Sherman in Paris. The couple divorces in 1927.
1921: Under the sponsorship of army doctors Connaway continues studies at Ecole des Beau Arts.
1922: Connaway returns to the United States with plans to approach several New York City galleries to present his portfolio. On the returning ship he meets a well-known art and print dealer, Frederick Keppel who in turn introduces Connaway to Robert Macbeth at Macbeth Gallery, New York City.
1923: Several of Connaway's paintings are accepted for his first one-man exhibition at Macbeth Gallery in New York City. George Milch offers Connaway rent-free studio space at 108 West 57th St, NYC.
1923-1925: With encouragement and financial backing by Robert Macbeth, supplemented by cash from artists Paul Dougherty and Emil Carlsen, and advice from Frederick Waugh, Connaway, "seeking to paint the lonely sea," goes to Head Harbor Island near Jonesport, Maine.
Connaway enlists as a surfman for the coastguard but is discharged several months later due to limited swimming ability. He finds work as a doryman with the Grand Banks Fleet off the coast of Newfoundland. Connaway visits Monhegan Island during this time.
Galleries generally assist promising artists with exposure by sending their paintings, framed and shipped, to exhibitions around the country. The galleries credit the artists when paintings are sold to cover bills for canvas, paint, and other needs. Robert Macbeth provides financial sponsorship to three artists at this time, including Jay Connaway. Galleries continue the practice of crediting painters until the Great Depression when they are no longer able to do so.
1925-1928: Connaway paints in Keene Valley, New York in the Adirondack Mountains.
Connaway meets Bartlett Arkell, presumably through George Milch or Robert Macbeth of Macbeth Gallery. By this time, Arkell is well aware of Connaway's following, having read reviews of recent exhibitions, particularly that of the distinguished art critic, Royal Cortissoz.
1926: Connaway paints in the mountains in Peru, Vermont. In 1927 he exhibits with Southern Vermont Artists, Inc., a group formed from the Dorset Artists who held annual exhibitions at Burr and Burton Seminary in Manchester, Vermont.
Through friends, Jay Connaway meets Louise Boehl, a nurse training at 5th Avenue Hospital. A trained concert pianist and singer, Louise sidelines at clubs, charity luncheons, and ballroom dances.
1928: Jay Connaway marries Louise Boehl in a civil ceremony in Meriden, Connecticut, her family present despite their objections to her marrying a "starving artist." A wedding breakfast reception is held directly afterward at the home of Bartlett and Louise Arkell at West 10th Street, New York. Attending the reception are Robert Macbeth, Leonebel Jacobs, portrait painter, Missy Meloney, editor of This Week of the New York Herald Tribune, and Mr. and Mrs. Frank Barbour, Director of the Canajoharie Library and Art Gallery. Mrs. Barbour is the sister of Bartlett Arkell.
1929-1931: With the backing from Bartlett Arkell, Robert Macbeth and George Milch, Jay Connaway and his new wife Louise Boehl Connaway depart for Brittany, France. They live in Concaneau and then move to the Hotel Julia in Port-Aven near the Aven River. Jay interacts with the local community of painters but finds them distracting. Most artists paint scenes by the river Aven but Connaway walks eight miles to the sea to paint each day and back.
Connaway sends back a series of paintings to Robert Macbeth who exhibits some and criticizes others. In his correspondence with Jay and with Louise, he urges Connaway to think through his canvases more carefully and not to send unrealized work. In particular, Macbeth criticizes Connaway's hanging laundry motif as dull and suggests the artist not bother with the subject.
1929 The couple's only child, Leonebel Marie Frances Connaway is born on June 10th in Port Aven, France. She is named for the portrait artist, Leonebel Jacobs, with whom Connaway shared studio space in New York.
1931: The Connaways return to New York City in the midst of the Great Depression. They are virtually penniless.
Jay Connaway, Arthur Melterzer, J.H. Scott, exhibition at Macbeth Gallery, April 4th
(Connaway exhibits his Brittany subjects.)
One-man exhibition, Vose Galleries, Boston.
Signal Recognition Award for a painting selected for the Winter Exhibition, Corcoran Art Gallery, Washington, DC.
The Connaways move to a small studio in Portland, Maine and then to Monhegan Island, Maine. Connaway is one of three principal Monhegan painters working on the island during the 1930s and '40s ­ Abraham Bogdanove, born in Minsk, Russia and Andrew Winter born in Sindi, Estonia.
1932: Exhibition of Paintings by Jay Connaway, Pascal M. Gatterdam Galleries, 145 West 57th St. Dec. 5th-17th
1933: Paints Monday on Mohegan, quite possibly his last "laundry painting," a theme carried over after several unsuccessful laundry paintings created in Brittany. Macbeth and Arkell praise the painting and it is exhibited in The Sea at Monhegan, a one-man show of Connaway's Monhegan work at Macbeth Gallery.
One-man show, The Sea at Monhegan, Macbeth Gallery, April-June.
Connaway writes to Robert Macbeth from Monhegan Island stating he is flat broke and desperately needs canvas to paint. He writes that he sold his canvas to a "lady who paints and since then have used old panels of last winter." Connaway closes the letter saying he has been "very blue." In a post-script he states, "Mr. Arkell sent me a nice heavy overcoat. I have on now shoes and pants he bought me in Manchester, the fall of 1928."
Elected as an Associate to the National Academy of Design, New York City.
1934: Jay Connaway exhibits in a one-man show Marines by Connaway at Macbeth Gallery.
1934: One-man exhibition, Macbeth Gallery, May 1st.
Connaway's patron, Bartlett Arkell purchases three Connaway paintings, "Monday on Monhegan," "Sea Over the Washerwoman," and "Lobster Cove" from the spring exhibition held at Macbeth Gallery, NYC.
1939: Bartlett Arkell holds the mortgage on a house on Horn Hill, Monhegan Island for the Connaway family. The deed is credited to the Canajoharie Library and Art Gallery. Under lease agreement, Jay or Robert Macbeth pay rent when Jay is unable to sell paintings. Robert Macbeth and Bartlett Arkell pay for house repairs and utilities. Despite the assistance of Arkell and Macbeth, the Connaways live a meager existence.
Connaway paints in a studio in the forest on the northern side of the hill behind Burnt Head. During his time on the island he has three different studios.
Louise Connaway acts in the role of island nurse for the small community of year-round residents. Her assistance during an epidemic flu saved the lives of several islanders. Jay, having received medical training at Lilly Base Hospital 32 in France, assists with island patients whenever Louise is on the mainland.
Establishes the Jay Connaway Art School on Monhegan Island.
Connaway has a one-man exhibition in his home state of Indiana at the Indiana Museum of Art, Marine Paintings, Dec. 11th-Dec.29th, 1939.
1940: One-man exhibition at Macbeth Gallery during the month of April, followed by another (and tea party) at Vose Galleries, Boston, during May arranged through Macbeth Gallery and through the efforts of the Connaway's friend, Professor Warner Taylor of the University of Wisconsin. Taylor is a summer resident on Monhegan.
Robert Macbeth notes in a letter to Taylor that Connaway's work is very uneven and some paintings do not appear to have been given serious thought. He wonders if the artist may be suffering from one of his "periodic mental disturbances" or is having trouble, as he does at times, with his eyes. Macbeth notes that life on Mohegan is hard and Connaway may benefit from less isolation and more contact with buyers.
1941: Summer Exhibition, Milch Gallery.
One-man show, Milch Galleries, New York, Nov. through December.
One-man show, Monhegan Marines, Macbeth Gallery.
Connaway is represented by the Grand Central Galleries, New York City.
The deed for the Monhegan house in which the Connaways live is transferred from the Canajoharie Library and Art Gallery to Bartlett Arkell.
1942: German submarines are sighted off the coast of Monhegan Island. Many islanders vacate for the mainland, including the Connaways who find work in Berwick, PA through contacts of their friends Missy Maloney, an editor at the Herald Tribune and Leonebel Jacobs, celebrity portrait painter. Working for the American Car and Foundry in Berwick, Louise is a nurse in the company infirmary and Connaway, who finds little time to paint, is reassigned to design a tank parts' catalog. He continues to paint during the day and then works for American Car from 3-11pm. Their daughter Leonebel, attends Northfield Seminary in Massachusetts and joins her parents during the summers and works in the office. The Connaways return to the island periodically during the summers to attend business related to the selling of Jay's paintings, which declines during the war. They return to Monhegan in 1946.
1944: Word War II has a great impact on the course of Connaway's reception at exhibitions. Fewer of his paintings sell.
In a letter to from Bartlett Arkell to Warner Taylor, Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin, (a summer resident on Monhegan Island), Arkell explains he is not in a position to assist Connaway during the war. He states he wishes the public regarded Connaway's paintings as highly as Warner. He also states that, although he has not yet told Connaway, it is his intention to leave the Monhegan bungalow to him in his will and he hopes he will be able to use it successfully in years to come. He states that Mrs. Arkell intends to buy some of Connaway's new paintings.
Elected as full academician, National Academy of Design, New York City.
1946:?Bartlett Arkell dies in Canajoharie, New York. In his will, he leaves the Monhegan property to Connaway.
Many former US servicemen come to the island on the GI Bill to study art at Connaway's art school. They meet daily at Odom's store and paint at Burnt Head, White Head, Fish Beach and all the sites from where Connaway paints. They meet again on Sundays at the Connaway's home for critiques and lectures. Warner Taylor, attends the lectures and photographs the classes. Taylor later writes letters of support on Connaway's behalf to the Vermont Department of Education when Connaway relocates and re-opens his school.
1947: Jay Connaway is legally awarded the property at Monhegan Island.
Feeling a sense of stagnation and frustration with the hard life on Monhegan, the Connaways move temporarily to Berwick, Pennsylvania (where they had worked in 1942) and then relocate in September to a rental property in Dorset, Vermont. Their daughter Leonebel enrolls at Bennington College. The couple is deliriously happy with the conveniences of life in Dorset. They continue to visit Monhegan during the summers.
Opens the Connaway Art School in Dorset, Vermont. He later merges the school with Southern Vermont Artists, Inc.
Connaway is one of the founding members of the Southern Vermont Arts Center where he remains an active supporter until his death, often offering workshops, classes and painting landscapes from memory on the spot. Workshop attendees purchase the paintings from these sessions. Proceeds are donated to SVAC.
1948: One-main exhibition at the Newark Art Club in New Jersey.
1949: One-man exhibition, Milch Galleries, March 15th-April 3rd.
1953: Jay Connaway sells the Monhegan property: the house, studio and 8 acres of land for $5,000. He puts a down payment on a house in North Rupert, Vermont.
1957: Connaway travels to paint in Portugal, Spain, and Brittany, France.
1962: The Jay Connaway Art School of Dorset, Vermont merges with Southern Vermont Artists, Inc., now known as Southern Vermont Arts Center, in Manchester. Connaway continues to teach classes and offers lectures on Saturdays. Connaway sets up a curriculum for servicemen on the GI Bill. He seeks funding to found a rehabilitation hospital but settles on collaboration and support for his school with the Veterans' Administration.
Travels to paint at Sonoma and Port Lobos, California.
1965: Retrospective exhibition, Marine Paintings by Jay Connaway, Macbeth Gallery, December 12th-26th.
One-man exhibition, John Herron Museum, Indianapolis.
Connaway travels to Portugal and paints by the coast.
1967: Jay Connaway's Landscape with Rolling Hills, ca. 1914, painted as a landscape mural for the walls of Wishard Hospital, Indianapolis undergoes restoration attempts. Restoration includes the removal of the murals from the walls of the damaged Burdsal Building of the hospital campus. The process of removing the murals causes damage and tears that were subsequently covered by excessive filling and over-painting. Images of the step-by-step restoration mural may be viewed at:
1970: The University Art Gallery at SUNY Binghamton hosts a major retrospective of Connaway's paintings.
Jay Connaway dies on February 18th at the age of 76 while on vacation in Tucson, Arizona. Although he requested to have his body donated to science at the University of Vermont, his ashes are interred in the falls of the Metowee Creek behind his studio in North Rupert.
A retrospective exhibition of Connaway's painting is hung at Southern Vermont Arts Center.
1980: A retrospective exhibition, Jay H. Connaway, N.A. is held at Southern Vermont Arts Center, July 12th-27th.
1986: Jay Connaway, N.A. Exhibition, Vose Galleries of Boston, Inc. April 19th.
1988: A retrospective exhibition of Jay Connaway's paintings is held at the Monhegan Museum.
1997: Louise Boehl Connaway dies at age 93 in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Before her death, she bequeaths Jay's papers and photographs from Monhegan along with her own papers to the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Museum, Washington, DC.
2006: Leonebel M. Connaway, of North Rupert, Vermont, daughter of Jay and Louise, dies on July 26th at age 77 at Bennington, Vermont. Among a variety of jobs, including secretary and director for the Society of Pragmatic Mysticism, Leonebel managed her father's art gallery in North Rupert, Vermont.
2009:Moods of Nature, with painting from the Marjorie Benson Osborn Collection, is held at the Portland Museum of Art, Portland, Maine.
Connaway's hospital murals are exhibited by the Indianapolis Museum of Art in, Preserving a Legacy: Wishard Hospital Murals, January 17-March 29th.
Exhibition, Bernard Corey, Jay Connaway and Their Contemporaries, Wiscasset Bay Gallery, Wiscasset, Maine, Sept. 2- Oct.9th
2010: Jay Hall Connaway: A Restless Nature, opens at the Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, Vermont, May 16th- Oct.24th
2011: Jay Hall Connaway, Fleming Art Museum, University of Vermont, To Look on Nature, Paintings by Jay Hall Connaway from the Marjorie Benson Osborne Collection, March 1st-Sept. 5th.
2011:Exhibition, Rising from the Sea: The Art of Jay Hall Connaway, Arkell Museum at Canajoharie, August 25, 2011-May 21st, 2012.
2012: Exhibition, Weatherbound: The Art of Jay Hall Connaway, Southern Vermont Arts Center, July 28th, 2012-October 21st, 2012.


- Compiled by Ruth Greene-McNally, Exhibition Curator

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