In 1995, ten art museums in the state of Connecticut — each with an important role in the history of the American Impressionist movement — joined together to promote themselves to art lovers and tourists. Ten years later, they group expanded its membership to include five additional museums and widen its appeal beyond a single style of art.
Today, the Connecticut art trail includes museums and historic sites celebrating American and European art, modern and ancient art, rural villages and vibrant cities. It’s a grand tour of art history, all readily accessible within driving distance in a single state.
Heading north and east from the New York City area, highlights of the Connecticut Art Trail include:
Bruce Museum – Greenwich
Art and science are on display in a beautiful park setting in Connecticut’s most southeastern town. Kids will love the focus on dinosaurs, while the grownups will appreciate the 15,000 item fine art collection and the rotating exhibitions.
Bush-Holley Historic Site – Cos Cob
The first of Connecticut’s famed art colonies was established here along Cos Cob harbor in 1890. But the house dates back to the early 1700s, and has been restored to reflect both the 18th and 19th-century periods in its history. A number of the paintings in the museum collection are of the house itself and its inhabitants, painted by some of America’s leading Impressionist artists.
Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum – Ridgefield
With a national reputation for its influence on new art and emerging artists, the Aldrich Museum has no permanent collection, but features changing exhibits and educational programs. It is an art space dedicated to bringing the very latest works by early and mid-career artists to wider public attention.
Weir Farm National Historic Site – Wilton/Ridgefield
Three generations of artists lived and worked on this site, now Connecticut’s only National Park Service site. Form an early home to an Impressionist enclave in the 1890s, to the studio of a world-renowned sculptor in the 1930s, many, many important American works of art were created here – inspired by the bucolic rural setting.
Yale Center for British Art – New Haven
Yale University Art Gallery – New Haven
As one might expect from one of America’s foremost universities, Yale has two outstanding art institutions on its campus. The Art Gallery was founded by Revolutionary era painter John Trumbull, and presents exhibitions of fine arts that range from ancient artifacts to modernist sculpture. The Center for British Art houses the largest collection of British art outside the United Kingdom, and features a collection of works that date back to the Elizabethan period.
Florence Griswold Museum – Old Lyme
Another of Connecticut’s Impressionist era art colonies, the Lyme Art Colony was housed in Florence Griswold’s boarding house, where American painters such as Childe Hassam and Willard Metcalf lived and worked. Today, the house has been restored and once again serves as an artists’ retreat, while the neighboring Krieble Gallery houses the collection and exhibitions.
New Britain Museum of American Art – New Britain
With a history that traces back to the turn of the 20th century, the New Britain Museum entered a new era when it opened the Chase Family Building in 2006. The $26 million facility overlooking Frederick Law Olmstead’s Walnut Hill Park is now one of the largest museums in New England, with a 5,000-piece collection that honors American art since the 1700s.
Hill-Stead Museum – Farmington
Set on a 150-acre farm overlooking the town of Farmington, industrialist Alfred Pope’s Colonial revival style home, designed by his famed architect daughter Theodate, is home to a stunning collection of Impressionist art, displayed as it was when the Popes and their descendant s lived there and enjoyed it as their private collection.
Wadsworth Atheneum – Hartford
America’s oldest public art museum has been breaking ground in the art world for over 150 years. It was the first American museum to display works by the likes of Caravaggio, Dali, Miro, Mondrian as well as the site of the debut of both Balanchine’s ballet company and the first Picasso retrospective. It is acclaimed as one of the country’s finest art museums.