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Westport's Artistic Legacy: About

Westport's Artistic Legacy

Link to The New Yorker in Westport by Eve Potts in the catalog
Link to Famous Artists School Courses in the catalog
Link to A community of artists : Westport-Weston, 1900-1985 by Dorothy and John Tarrant in the catalog
Link to Drawing Lessons from the Famous Artists School by Albert Dorne et al in the catalog
Link to Westport artists of the past : a Bicentennial exhibition, 1976, at Westport Public Library, Westport, Connecticut, June 12-June 30, 1976 / the catalog written by William Slaughter ; the exhibition designed by Walter Einsel from Westport Public Schools
Link to Boats Against the Current by Richard Webb Jr in the catalog
Link to Westport schools permanent art collection : our art heritage, a gift for the future by The Westport Schools Permanent Art Collection Committee from WPS
Link to Years in the Making Video Series in the catalog
Link to Westport by Westport Museum for History & Culture in the catalog
Link to Westport, Connecticut by Woody Klein in the catalog


Robert Lambdin once said that when he moved to Westport in 1918 there were twenty or so artists living here. In 1924 a local headline proclaimed, "Westport is Truly Getting to Be the Home of Many Famous Artists." By 1934 the count - as proclaimed in a special edition of another local newspaper - was seventy-eight painters, sculptors, etchers and designers, "including many of international fame." Another half dozen or so lived in Weston. 

In the 1940's the renown of the local colony was such that the dynamic Albert Dorne decided that Westport was the place to locate his art correspondence school, and that the name to give the school was "Famous Artists." The movement of artists to Westport and Weston had reached flood stage. And still they came, and continue to come. Why here? How did it start? 

In the 1890's many of the country's well-established artists worked in New York, clustered in convenient neighborhoods like Union Square and the 23rd Street area, a warren of studios in those days. New York was where artists exhibited and taught and sold their work. The city had become the center of commercial creativity. And it was a mecca for art students.

The established artists who taught and worked in New York looked for summer locations away from the heat of the city, but not too far away. The logical places would be along the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad line. The artists wanted to be able to travel to and from New York City within a few hours. They also wanted inexpensive living accommodations for themselves and their students. And they wanted to get "back to nature" by working out of doors - en plein air - in the Impressionist modes which had recently captivated the American art world. Cool, beautiful, convenient and low in cost - these were the criteria.

Any number of Connecticut towns might have met these criteria. There is, however, another factor in the development of a colony of artists. Artists tend to be drawn to a place by the presence of others whom they like and respect. Thus the first of the Connecticut shore colonies, located in the Cos Cob section of Greenwich, grew up in the 1890's around the leading American Impressionist John H. Twachtman. Seventy miles further up the coats, the early 1900's saw the establishment of a second colony at Old Lyme, primarily because of two men: Henry Ward Ranger, a prominent landscape painter and colorful personality, and then the equally dominant and more highly renowned Childe Hassam, who displaced Ranger as leader and pushed the Old Lyme group decisively in the direction of American Impressionism. 

The gathering of artists in the Westport-Weston area began before 1900. The artist Angus MacDonall recalled that in 1900 he visited an artist friend who had purchased a farmhouse and settled in Westport. MacDonall would eventually become a permanent resident of the town. The artist Neil Mitchill is said to have been in Westport before 1900. Other early arrivals include Edmund M. Ashe, John N. Marchannd and George Hand Wright.

Westport had the basic requirements: convenient railroad transportation, affordable accommodations, beautiful countryside, and, as in Cos Cob and Old Lyme, the influence of well-known and respected artists. Continue reading from A Community of Artists, 9-10.

Learn More about the Arts in Westport

Link to Famous Artists School Resource Guide
Link to Lucille Lortel and The White Barn Theatre Resource Guide
Link to Westport Public Art Collections Resource Guide
Link to Gatsby in Westport Resource Guide
Link to Westport's Local Artists Resource Guide
Link to Rock & Roll at Staples High Resource Guide
Link to Westport Country Playhouse Resource Guide
Link to World-Renowned Westporters Resource Guide

Return to the Visual Arts Collection Resource Guide Series