Impressionism in Connecticut
A charismatic Englishman with the unlikely name of Dawson Dawson-Watson came to Hartford in 1893, fresh from Giverny and its aura of Claude Monet, and set to work introducing the radical French art called
Impressionism. He taught it to his students at the city's leading art school, gave public lectures, and exhibited prime examples that he painted in or near Farmington, where he lived for a time. Hartford was generally bewildered, even shocked, by his work, but local artists were hooked by the time he moved on in a few years, eventually to settle in Texas. Dawson-Watson (1864-1939) gave Hartford its first keen breath of the "modern" in art.
Artists had long idealized the expansive American landscape into carefully balanced vistas, richly detailed and deeply colored, which they painted in their studios from sketches they had made at the site. Their so-called "Hudson River School" paintings, were beloved in America throughout much of the 19th century. No wonder Dawson-Watson's pastel-colored river and trees, seen very close to yet only vaguely realized, with diffuse light, off-center focus, lack of horizon, and little depth, looked bizarre in the 1890's. It took some time before people understood that Impressionism artists like Dawson-Watson were not sloppy painters but that the subtle designs they were creating in the open air out of light, color, and form were carefully conceived invitations to share the artist's intimate experiences of a particular place at a certain time.
This site sits on the bed of an abandoned railroad, which the Department of Environmental Protection and the towns of Burlington, Canton, Farmington, and Simsbury are converting to a multi-use recreational trail. When completed, this 16-mile section will connect to the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail to form a 26-mile loop. Here the trail runs directly along the Farmington River, one of Connecticut's great natural resources.
The Farmington has been recognized by the U.S. Department of the Interior as a national wild and scenic river. It is protected from many projects which would degrade its quality. The Department of Environmental Protection, the towns, and local organizations continue to acquire and preserve land in the Farmington River watershed for the enjoyments of future generations.