Florence House Bedroom
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Florence House Bedroom


Welcome to the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, Connecticut. I’m Jenny Parsons, Assistant Curator and I’m standing in Florence Griswold’s bedroom in the historic house were an art colony flourished around 1900. Today it’s installed as it might have been observed in 1910 at the art colony’s height. Imagine if you had to take all of your belongings spread around a grand house and fit them into one room. Well, that’s why this room may appear so full. This was Florence Griswold’s only private space, sandwiched between the public hall and the parlor and the domestic area where staff prepared meals. This room is filled with her cherished family possessions and many of them allude to the history of this home before it was a boardinghouse. So, for example, over here is the telescope used by Florence’s father, Robert Griswold. This room was his office or sitting room before it became a boardinghouse and the telescope is here because Robert Griswold was a sea captain of transatlantic packet ships. He moved immigrants and cotton between New York and London. And to give a little perspective for visitors we’ve installed a seascape above the mantle which shows one of the packet ships that Robert Griswold captained. This one is called “The Northumberland.” Here in the corner cupboard are precious mementos that speak to Florence Griswold’s history as well as the house’s history before it was a boardinghouse. The cabinet contains china plates decorated by Florence’s eldest sister, Louise Augusta. These objects speak to the houses prior life as a home school for girls, which Mrs. Griswold and her daughters operated for 14 years beginning in 1878. Taking in boarding students bolstered the family’s finances and eventually paved the way for the boardinghouse where Florence welcomed the artists. This winter landscape that hangs above Florence’s bed was painted by her other sister Helen Adele. Adele was a teacher of painting and drawing at the Griswold homeschool. Later she had to leave the family home to move into a mental health facility leaving Florence to manage the house and its finances on her own. Many objects in this room also allude to the friendships Miss Florence cultivated with the artists who came to board. This autumn landscape was painted by Louis Cohen and it includes an inscription, “To my friend Miss Florence Griswold,” as well as his signature and the date. Similarly, this jewel-like work below was a gift to Florence from Ellen Axson Wilson. She was an artist as well as the first wife of President Woodrow Wilson. The Wilson family spent time here before Woodrow became president. You can see that Ellen Wilson too drank the Impressionist kool-aid of the art colony. Here she uses short strokes of brightly colored paint to capture the spirit of the verdant summer with cheerful touches of pink red and blue that suggests hollyhocks, daffodils, and lilacs enveloping the architecture of the white porch. Following Florence Griswold’s death in 1937 most of her possessions were sold off to pay her debts. The museum staff has worked continuously to reacquire some of those items that were lost. This painting by Charles Vezin called “The Old Garden” is one of those works. It was sold in the auction in 1938 but rediscovered and reacquired in 2005. We are always on the lookout for objects like this to help tell us the story of the Lyme Art Colony. There are many layers of history here, between the house, what we have installed in our historic spaces, as well as rotating and our special exhibition galleries. I invite you to come explore all that the Florence Griswold Museum has to offer. It’s one of the only places in the country where you can see landscape paintings installed in historic spaces and then venture outside to explore those very landscapes firsthand.

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