Art History



Two Souls Crossing The River Styx

Donald Axleroad

In 1912 when the newly-formed Bruce Museum was looking to host an inaugural exhibition, it turned to members of the newly formed Greenwich Society of Artists to lend it some local color. With a membership roster that included sculptor Edward Clark Potter and a who’s who of the famed Cos Cob Art Colony, the Bruce had itself a world-class exhibition. And the Greenwich Art Society, as it is known today, began its own 100-year tradition of making a vibrant impact on town life.

Coming Full Circle, an exhibition of works created by GAS artists representing each decade of its history, continues at the Bruce through April 1. The Bruce exhibition is just one of several events the art society has planned to mark its centennial year. “It’s a fairly significant achievement for any arts organization—especially an artist-based organization—to celebrate a 100-year anniversary,” says painter Anna Patalano, the society’s current president. “And one of the things we’re trying to do this year is tell the story of our connection to Greenwich’s history as a true artists’ community. It’s something even people who are familiar with us may not fully appreciate.”

Come October the GAS will collaborate with the Greenwich Historical Society’s Bush-Holley House for another retrospective. That show will draw on the enduring ties that exist between the society and the historically significant Cos Cob Colony, which included American Impressionist painters such as Elmer McCrae and John Henry Twachtman. These men, among the GAS’s founding members, were part of a talented tribe of artists who migrated from New York City and set up roots (and easels) here.

Today, the GAS has evolved into a more diverse collaborative; drawing members from throughout Fairfield and Westchester counties. Its Studio School hosts year-round classes and scores of current members represent artistic traditions ranging from drawing and sculpture to painting, collage, photography and mixed media. The society also maintains a robust schedule of exhibitions at various galleries and public spaces throughout town as well as at its Bendheim Gallery (Metropolitan Museum of Art curator, Marla Prather, will select seventy works of art from the approximately 250 submitted for the Annual Members exhibit that will run in February and March).

“As artists it [the GAS] gives us an opportunity to show and share our work and be a community,” says collage artist Carol Dixon, who joined in 1972 when she moved to town and went on to serve as its president. “But I think another tradition that’s been important over the years is our service to the community.” From supporting scholarships for college-bound artistic Greenwich High School graduates to hosting art sales to support community organizations, the GAS has made enduring contributions that are a bit like fine art: They’ve only grown more valuable over time.

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