Most of the artists who came to Old Lyme also had studios in New York or elsewhere. Both Henry Ward Ranger and Childe Hassam, leaders in the Lyme Art Colony, had studios in an artist co-op located on West 67th Street in New York next to Central Park. The studios had high ceilings and north-facing windows with spaces for sleeping and living. Unlike the contemporary notion of an artist’s studio, these spaces were often richly decorated, filled with carpets and domestic furniture, artistic knickknacks, and giant paintings in ornate gold frames. The situation was much different once the artists traveled outside the city to paint.
“Little gray studios grew up like toadstools in Florence’s broad fields, that stretched down to Lieutenant River.”
~ Journalist Alice Lawton
There were several painting studios, “entirely casual affairs,” on the grounds of the Griswold boardinghouse that were crafted out of vacant barns and other outbuildings to accommodate her artistic boarders. Artists staying with Miss Florence could request studio space to use during their visit. The studio rent was as low as $5 a month. During a recent archaeological dig, the site of the studio that was often used by Childe Hassam was discovered to the northwest of the gardens.
Old farm structures behind the Griswold House
Nestled in the remains of an ancient apple orchard, Hassam’s studio afforded views of both the river and Miss Florence’s gardens. Long-term boarder William Robinson also had his own studio on the property. Today, the Hartman Education Center stands on the site of an earlier barn structure that was also used as studio space, complete with a large north-facing window.
The studios were creative workspaces where the artists could prepare and store their materials and work comfortably at any hour of the day or night. Despite the fact that the Impressionists, both in France and America, championed the notion of painting en plein air, or in the open air, most eventually returned to the controlled environment of the studio to complete a work of art, as well as to frame it or crate it. The first artists to stay in the boardinghouse worked outdoors but primarily with the intention of gathering visual information in a sketchbook or a painterly oil sketch. “The object of study and sketching out of doors is to fill the memory with facts,” remarked one Tonalist Lyme painter. Likewise, Henry Ward Ranger, who is photographed on Mason’s Island painting beneath the trees, paradoxically remarked that “he painted in the studio because he could get closer to nature that way than by painting out of doors.”
Barns behind the house were used as studio space
Photography and inscriptions by Jerry Bywater
Photograph courtesy of Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas
Postcard showing oxen with barn used by artists behind the Griswold House
Film Clips from Silent Film "Lyme Artists" (1930s)
Artists in the West 67th Street Co-Op in New York City, 1929
Henry Rankin Poore in Studio with paint brush in hand and on table
Artist studio with framed painting on easel
Harry Hoffman (1874-1966)
Childe Hassam’s Studio, 1909
Oil on canvas
Gift of the Artist
Will Howe Foote (1874-1965)
Wiggle Drawing "Oh Fudge" (artist at easel)
Graphite on paper