Artists' colonies

Quick Reference

Rural or small-town locations where artists congregate in search of agreeable and stimulating companionship in pleasant surroundings. Often these places have been summer retreats, but some developed into year-round art centers. Originating partly in the appeal of landscape subjects and local color, they were particularly popular at the end of the nineteenth century and during the early twentieth century. Most have been informal, but as their artist populations grew, frequently such communities organized institutions including schools and galleries. The most important artists' colonies include Old Lyme, Connecticut; Woodstock, New York; Provincetown, Massachusetts; and Taos, New Mexico, as well as New Hope and surrounding Bucks County, Pennsylvania. In 1899 Henry Ward Ranger numbered among the earliest arrivals in Old Lyme, which soon became a center for Barbizon, tonalist, and impressionist painting. It had been preceded by another colony also near the shore of Long Island Sound, in a section of Greenwich known as Cos Cob, which attracted J. Alden Weir and John Twachtman. Childe Hassam had also worked there before his first summer in Old Lyme, in 1903, the same year that Willard Metcalf initially visited. Other important participants at Old Lyme included Guy Wiggins and impressionist William Chadwick (1879–1962), as well as the popular teacher Frank Vincent DuMond (1865–1951). For several years, the Art Students League sponsored summer classes at the Lyme Summer School of Art. The Lyme Art Association, formed in 1914, opened a gallery in 1921.

Woodstock began attracting both summer and year-round residents to the Catskills in 1903, when wealthy, English-born, Oxford-educated reformer Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead (1854–1929), established a utopian community with the assistance of novelist and social worker Hervey White, printmaker Bolton Coit Brown (1865–1936), and other sympathetic artists and teachers. Based on ideals of the Arts and Crafts movement, Byrdcliffe offered housing and studios for artists as well as a library, a visitors' residence, and other facilities. White subsequently founded a splinter colony, Maverick, which became particularly known for music festivals. In 1906 the Art Students League began conducting summer classes at Woodstock. Founded in 1919 by Konrad Cramer, Andrew Dasburg, and Henry Lee McFee, the Woodstock Artists' Association remains in existence today. Numerous other artists associated with Woodstock include George Ault, Peggy Bacon, George Bellows, Alexander Brook, Birge Harrison, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, and Doris Lee. Provincetown became a summer outpost of Greenwich Village early in the twentieth century, attracting large numbers of artists and writers, as well as theater people involved in the Provincetown Playhouse, founded in 1915. Charles Hawthorne established the Cape Cod School of Art there, attracting students for a long period of time. Over the years, many important artists have been associated with the locale, including Hans Hofmann, who also taught there, and Milton Avery. Even before 1900 artists had begun congregating in picturesque Taos. The early arrivals generally created vigorously painted, realistic depictions of the landscape and local Indian life. The most important included Oscar Berninghaus (1874–1950), Ernest Blumenschein (1874–1960), Eanger Irving Couse (1866–1936), Victor Higgins (1884–1949), and Walter Ufer (1876–1936). All actively participated in the Taos Society of Artists, an important organization between 1915 and 1927. From 1917 Mabel Dodge Luhan held forth in Taos, and her presence attracted a varied retinue including Georgia O'Keeffe, who eventually settled nearby, and John Marin. John Sloan, as well as Raymond Jonson and other modernists, also numbered among the dozens of important artists who worked in Taos during the 1920s and 1930s. Since then, the area, along with Santa Fe about seventy miles away, has evolved into a major art hub. Edward Redfield numbered among the first artists to work in the area of New Hope, on the Delaware River north of Philadelphia. Following his lead shortly before 1900, this locale particularly attracted landscape painters favoring a bold, painterly realism with roots in impressionism. As well, during the period notable concentrations of artists could be found elsewhere, including the Gloucester/Cape Ann area of Massachusetts; Carmel on California's Monterey Peninsula; Westport, Connecticut; and Cornish, New Hampshire.


Subjects: Art.

Reference entries