Following is the online text for the Florence Griswold Museum's
exhibition: "Lucien Abrams: A Cosmopolitan in Connecticut", March 21
through June 1, 2014.
This exhibition of over forty paintings
and accompanying archival material was organized by the Old Jail Art
Center in Albany, Texas. It is the first to examine the work of Lucien
Abrams (1870-1941), who contemplated subjects as diverse as Algerian
watering holes, New England circus tents, and shady plazas in the
American southwest. Abrams is an important figure in the Lyme Art Colony
and the evolution of American Impressionism in the twentieth century.
His work represents an attempt to maintain the vitality of such a key
modern movement. "Lucien Abrams: A Cosmopolitan in Connecticut" will
give viewers new found perspective on this well-educated, well-traveled
man of art.
Abrams' exhibition record is impressive, yet his work
is not widely know due the small number of his paintings in public
collections. For this exhibition, guest curator Michael R. Grauer drew
from both public and private collections to examine Abrams' contribution
to Texas Impressionism, and also the American and worldwide
Impressionist movement. To tailor the show to Old Lyme, curators at the
Florence Griswold Museum explored his deep connections to Old Lyme
through paintings, diaries, and photographs borrowed from his family and
works from the Museum's own collection. "Abrams immersed himself in the
community and these materials, carefully preserved by his family, help
restore our sense of the home and friendships he made here," says
Curator Amy Kurtz Lansing.
A native Kansan, Lucien Abrams moved
to Dallas with his family in 1873. He studied at Princeton, the Art
Students League of New York, and the Académie Julian in Paris, living
and traveling in Europe and Algeria from 1894 until 1914. While Abrams'
style is diverse, the works he exhibited annually in Paris, and at the
Art Institute of Chicago, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and
the National Academy of Design showed the influences of Impressionism,
Post-Impressionism, and Fauvism.
An admirer of Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Abrams pays homage to the Impressionist master in his painting, Déjeuner en Provence,
ca. 1910 (on loan from the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas). The
depiction of a female figure in a casual patio setting thinly painted
and sketchily defined by short brushstrokes, and using a high-keyed
palette, distinguish it as an Impressionist painting.
many paintings of his wife and/or daughter seated in chairs invite
comparison to Paul Cézanne's portraits of Madame Cézanne. The loose
handling of Femme au Chapeau and its muted color scheme echo this artist's Post-Impressionist works.
Africa was a magnet for European artists during the nineteenth century.
Like his French colleagues, Abrams gravitated to Algeria, where he made
numerous paintings of the country's architecture and people during a
two-year stay in 1905-06. Kabyle Woman, ca. 1906, depicts a
member of one of the Berber groups in Algeria, shrouded in traditional
fabrics. In his sketches and paintings, Abrams seems to have appreciated
the almost abstract shapes into which these garments transformed their
In 1914, Abrams began dividing his time between his
family home in Dallas, a winter home in San Antonio, and a summer home
in Old Lyme, Connecticut. The artist brought to the American
Impressionism practiced in colonies such as the one in Old Lyme a
greater awareness of succeeding European artistic movements, enlivening
the aesthetic approach in a way that facilitated the embrace of a more
modern sensibility by members of the colony. The Orchard (from
the Florence Griswold Museum's collection), depicting Florence
Griswold's property, reflects the influence of Fauvism on Abrams in his
juxtaposition of reds and purples.
Untitled Landscape with
White House a depiction of Abrams' home on Johnnycake Hill imports the
lessons of Matisse to Old Lyme in its sketchy articulation. While living
in that home, Abrams and his wife would become active in the Lyme Art
Association, where Abrams exhibited both earlier European works and
canvases completed in Old Lyme. Some of his still lifes, based on floral
arrangements his wife gathered from their garden, will be exhibited
along with the vessels he used as props, collected in his foreign
The exhibition sheds light on Abrams' life, travel, and
impact on the practice of American Impressionism. His thorough
familiarity with European art and life distinguished him from other Lyme
Colony members whose European experiences were confined to a brief
period of their lives. Abrams' cosmopolitan outlook and aesthetic
allowed him to infuse an updated appreciation for the modern into
Impressionism in Old Lyme. As such, his presence stimulated the colony
from 1914 until his death in 1941.