Life and Art: The Greenwich Paintings of John Henry Twachtman
Greenwich Historical Society
Oct. 19, 2023 - Jan. 22, 2023
‘Life and Art’ to Showcase Many of Twachtman’s Most Personal Works
The Greenwich Historical Society will present an array of artworks by the celebrated American Impressionist artist John Henry Twachtman that depict his home and its surrounding landscape in Greenwich, Conn., where he lived from 1890 to 1899. During this period Twachtman reached artistic maturity and produced many of his best-known works. Featuring 18 artworks on loan from museums and private collections, Life and Art presents a unique view into an era when Twachtman earned a reputation as the most original of the leading American Impressionists.
“This is one of our most important and ambitious exhibitions since our founding 90 years ago,” says Debra Mecky, Historical Society Executive Director and CEO. “We are honored to showcase the works of an artist who was instrumental in launching American Impressionism and who had a direct link to Greenwich. In addition to producing many highly acclaimed works here, he taught art classes in Cos Cob on the site of our campus and lodged in what is now the National Historic Landmark Bush-Holley House. Through his presence and that of his friends and students, Cos Cob became a cradle of American Impressionism.”
Known during his lifetime as a “painter’s painter” whose works were appreciated by fellow artists more than the general public, today Twachtman is regarded as among the most innovative American artists of the late-19th century. His paintings are present in many of the country’s leading museums and collections of American art.
Life and Art is curated by Lisa N. Peters, Ph.D., an independent scholar and the author of John Henry Twachtman: An American Impressionist (High Museum of Art, Atlanta), as well as several other publications on Twachtman and American art. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue featuring an essay by Dr. Peters, incorporating insights gleaned from architectural study of Twachtman’s house, now privately owned.
Twachtman’s Greenwich art a form of autobiography
From the beginning of his career, the Cincinnati-born Twachtman (1853-1902) was committed to creating landscape paintings in the realist tradition, seeking inspiration from his immediate observations, at home in America and on trips to Europe. However, as curator Lisa N. Peters demonstrates, Twachtman struggled with the realization that nature did not provide a sense of completeness he believed to be essential to art. In Greenwich he satisfied that desire by depicting a setting he was able to shape himself.
Drawing on Peters’ research, Life and Art reveals developments that occurred concurrently as Twachtman met this aim. Whereas at first, he sought to establish a harmonious relationship between his home and the existing landscape, gradually he took more control of his environment, turning his home ground into a work of art. In the process, he became less beholden to nature by imposing aesthetic control over his surroundings. His paintings parallel this progression, demonstrating the way that life and art came together, making his Greenwich art a form of autobiography.
Architectural research relying on the study of historic photographs, paintings and artworks, correspondence and the house itself, undertaken in support of the exhibition, allowed Dr. Peters and the Historical Society to establish a clear chronology of the changes Twachtman made to his home during his Greenwich years. The artist documented these changes in dozens of artworks over the years, several of which are on view in Life and Art.
“In experiencing this exhibition of varied images of Twachtman’s home, viewers will have an opportunity to enter Twachtman’s world as he balanced the needs of his growing family with his desire to shape his environment to align with his artistic vision,” says Maggie Dimock, Greenwich Historical Society’s Curator of Exhibitions and Collections. “As Dr. Peters points out, Twachtman’s practice of capturing his home from many perspectives over the years provided him with a means of self-reflection. His artworks prompt us to consider the ways an artist relates to their subject, and consider how our homes reveal a part of who we are.”
The Historical Society’s galleries are open Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 12:00 to 4:00 pm. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for students and seniors, and free to children under 18 and Historical Society Members.
Life and Art has been made possible with support from the Henry Luce Foundation for American Art, the Jane Henson Foundation and First Republic Bank. A generous grant from the Wyeth Foundation for American Art supported the publication of the exhibition’s catalogue.
Life and Art is part of an ongoing initiative dedicated to the study of John Henry Twachtman in Greenwich, which also encompasses a free digital resource the John Henry Twachtman Catalogue Raisonné, an online catalogue of the artist’s complete works authored by Lisa N. Peters, in collaboration with the Greenwich Historical Society. The John Henry Twachtman Catalogue Raisonné is available at www.jhtwachtman.org. It is supported by a grant from the Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts, with additional support from the Cross Family Charitable Foundation and the Lunder Foundation.