Centered on the home of Florence Griswold, the Florence Griswold Museum is the main center of development of American Impressionism. Noted for being the center of the Old Lyme Art Colony, you and your family can discover American art from the 18th to the 20th centuries. Step back in time in the Florence Griswold House where some of America’s most beloved artists lived and worked (some even painted directly on the walls and doors of the house).
When you first come to visit, make your way to the Krieble Gallery admissions area. There you can find the Shop, restrooms, Orientation Theatre (with an informative introductory video), and Cafe Flo.
Opened in 2002, this gallery was designed by Centerbrook Architects and overlooks the Lieutenant River. Here, many of Miss Florence’s borders set up their easels and painted the marshy coastline. This modern facility draws upon the Museum’s unique history and setting: A mesmerizing, rippling aluminum canopy with flowering vines scaling stainless steel arbors.
This might sound odd, but the walls here were very important. Being curvilinear, the connecting walls reflect sunlight, cast shadows, and create an airy, welcoming effect in the gallery, demonstrating to visitors just how important light was to Impressionist painters.
Each year the exhibitions here change three to four times so there is always something new to view. If you’re bringing your children but you’re afraid that they might be a bit bored, keep them busy by picking up the Can You Find Me? cards in the gallery area. This will help focus your kids on the artwork by encouraging them to notice and search for detail in the paintings.
Florence Griswold House
Next you will want to head over to the Florence Griswold House, known as a National Historic Landmark. It was designed by Samuel Belcher, an architect of the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme, and built for William Noyes in 1817. This Late Georgian-style mansion reflects the affluent, formal style of living during Old Lyme’s maritime era.
Transformed into a boardinghouse for some of the most noted names in American Impressionism, over 200 artists have enjoyed its premises and countryside landscape. Childe Hassam, Willard Metcalf, and Matilda Browne were some of the artists part of the Lyme Art Colony.
Walk up to the second floor of the House to see paintings, sketches, and photographs at the American Place: The American Art Colony at Lyme exhibit to see the importance of the Lyme Art Colony in the history of American Art.
Ask for a Scavenger Hunt with a list of objects to find in each room. The objects tell the story of the Museum so families can learn about the famous artists who lived in the house over one hundred years ago. Return the sheet to the front desk for a prize. This is a great way to focus your kids’ attention on the artwork as you meander through the house.
What Else Can You Do?
- Explore the Museum’s grounds. You can wander through thirteen scenic acres around the picturesque Lieutenant River and walk through the historic gardens of Florence Griswold. Today, just as over one hundred years ago, artist and visitor alike can discover the quality of light and the spirit of place found here.
- Check out the Chadwick Studio. From the first Sunday in April to October, head over to the Chadwick Studio to experience the working practices of American Impressionist artist William Chadwick. From 1920 to 1962, this structure served as the artist’s studio and is now fully furnished and appears today as it did during his lifetime. While Chadwick was strongly committed to the “en plein air” tradition of Impressionism, particularly in depicting the landscape, he used this studio for figure painting, still lifes, and finishing landscape paintings begun in the open air.
- Visit the Rafal Landscape Center. Located in a traditional 19th century barn, the center to see the featured exhibit of a silent film from the 1920s, reproductions of historic photographs and paintings, and a selection of agricultural artifacts illustrate how people have interacted with the Lyme landscape over time. The Center also features The Landscape of Lyme exhibition that highlights the history and significance of the region’s landscape.
- The Hartman Education Center hosts year-round programs and events for adults and kids. Check them out here.
The Florence Griswold Museum is located at 96 Lyme Street, Old Lyme. It is open from 10am to 5pm Tuesday through Saturday and 1pm to 5pm on Sundays. Admission costs $10 for adults, $9 for seniors, $8 for students, is free for visitors 12 and under, and includes access to all exhibits, grounds, and facilities.