Florence Griswold Museum

Old Lyme, Connecticut

(860) 434-5542



Wilson H. Irvine and the Poetry of Light


From left to right: Cool Shadows, oil on canvas, 29 x 36 inches; Kendall Woods Lodge, CT. , oil on canvas, 30 x 36 inches; Meeting House Hill; St. Ives, Cornwall, oil on canvas, 29 1/2 x 36 inches (click on images for enlargements)


Wilson Irvine was an American artist who constantly investigated and reinvented the Impressionist plein air painting tradition during the first decades of the twentieth-century.

Although compositional formulas based on mathematical ratios were an important foundation to his work, it was his response to the special light as it played across the Connecticut landscape that enabled him to produce sun-filled paintings of particular appeal. Opening on June 6, 1998 at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme,Wilson Irvine and the Poetry of Light will invite visitors into Irvine's vision of Connecticut and Europe and the luminous land he saw, and from this first exhibition of Irvine's work that is truly comprehensive in scope, there will emerge a firm recognition of the accomplishments and legacy of Wilson Henry Irvine (1869-1936).

Drawing from public and private sources including the largest private collection of Wilson Irvine paintings, the exhibition will reveal both the excellence and the versatility of this important America Impressionist. Addressing all phases of Irvine's career, Wilson Irvine and the Poetry of Light will emphasize the artist's lifelong investigation of Impressionism. His unique and innovative "aquaprints" and "prismatic paintings" will be placed within the context of his professional development and the broader history of American painting.

Irvine attended classes at The Art Institute of Chicago from 1898 to 1902 where he developed his lifelong interest in landscape painting. During these years, he established himself as a professional artist with close ties to Chicago's art scene. Although he knew many of the midwestern artists associated with the Hoosier School of American Impressionists, Irvine chose to summer in the art colony in Old Lyme, Connecticut in 1914. By 1918, he had settled permanently in the nearby Hamburg Cove section of Lyme.

Building upon the Old Lyme tradition established by Childe Hassam, Willard Metcalf, and others, Irvine explored the wealth of subjects found in the Connecticut landscape. His artistic reputation today centers on the wide range of work he did in the Lyme region.

This exhibition will offer new information about both the Chicago and The Old Lyme art worlds as experienced by Irvine during the early part of the twentieth century. In addition, frequent trips abroad provided the artist with new landscapes, and his depictions of the French and Spanish countryside portray his continued experimentation with the plein air process. This exhibition will show the landscape subjects explored by lrvine as well as his highly individual approach to the qualities of light he experienced in America and Europe.

Accompanying the exhibition will be a fully illustrated catalogue, a major study of the artist and his work, with a critical essay by guest curator Dr. Harold Spencer, Professor Emeritus of Art History at the University of Connecticut. Dr. Spencer was one of the curators for the landmark 1980 exhibition Connecticut and American Impressionism.

Wilson Irvine and the Poetry of Light is supported by the Institure of Museum and Library Services. The exhibition will be on view at the Florence Griswold Museum until August 30, 1998.

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 11/26/10

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