Art from the permanent collection of the Wilton Historical Society

From the town’s beginnings in the early 18th century, works depicting the people and landscapes of Wilton have reflected the ever-changing artistic currents of subjects, materials and styles of the following three centuries. The new exhibition, Lives and Landscapes: Art from the Permanent Collection of Wilton Historical Society, which opens June 10, explores the highlights of the art collection from the colonial era to the 1970s. Throughout this period, Wilton has inspired a wide variety of creators. Whether simply passing through or settling in as long-time residents, pushing the boundaries of artistic expression or fulfilling commercial contracts, Wilton artists have produced a diverse body of work. The exhibition runs until October 29.

Members of Wilton’s early colonial families, such as the Lamberts, Beldens, and Grummans, commissioned portraits to show their wealth and power. The two exhibited works of the itinerant painter Ralph Earl were prized – Earl’s patronage included founding father Roger Sherman – as were the portraits produced by Gilbert Stuart Newtonnephew of the famous Gilbert Stuart. Gilbert Stuart is best known for his iconic images of George Washington.

Over time, landscapes have grown in popularity. Wilton’s sparsely populated countryside of the late 19th and early 20th centuries offered beautiful landscapes to capture on canvas and a quiet place to work undisturbed, while Wilton’s proximity to the cultural hub of New York ensured that a large audience was easily accessible. Artists working in the new Impressionist style, in search of panoramas to paint “en plein air”, populated the region – one of the leaders being J. Alden Weir and his “great place” Weir Farm. Others like HG Thomson followed shortly thereafter. During the early to mid-twentieth century, a new group of artists emerged. Many have congregated in the Silvermine area, enjoying both the setting and the proximity to the town. Works produced at Wilton could quickly be placed in one of New York’s many museums and galleries.

City landmarks, such as the 1790 Wilton Congregationalist Church painted in an “open-air” Impressionist style by Robert EmmetOwen and the Lambert House of 1726 by HG Thompson, are beautifully represented. Other artists represented in the exhibition include Richard Daggysculptor A. Phimister Proctorand Hillary Longmuir.

Lives and Landscapes explores Wilton’s artistic legacy through a selection of rarely seen works from Wilton Historical’s permanent collection. These works capture something of the city’s personality through the faces and places depicted. They tell the stories not only of the subject of the play, but also of the history of a city.

Historic Wilton Members: Free; Non-members $10

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