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Clark Greenwood Voorhees
Lyme Art Colony
(May 29, 1871–July 17, 1933)
In Lyme: Summers, 1896, 1901-1903; Permanently, 1904-1933
Clark Voorhees was the first artist to discover Old Lyme - in the spring of 1896, while exploring the Connecticut shoreline by bicycle. He liked what he saw so much he arranged to stay at the Griswold House, which Miss Florence had recently opened to boarders, and spent all that summer and part of the fall painting in the neighborhood.
Unlike most of the group that would come to Old Lyme, Clark Voorhees had not at first wanted a career in art. He had studied at the Sheffield Scientific School of Yale University, then gone on for a master’s degree at Columbia University, where he had done some teaching in chemistry as well. Not until 1894, the year before he received his advance degree, did Voorhees study art (with Irving Wiles of New York City). By 1896, however, he had turned from the possibility of a career in science and enrolled at the Academie Julian in Paris, under Benjamin Constant and Jean-Paul Laurens. He had determined to be an artist.
Voorhees was in Old Lyme again for at least part of each summer between 1901-03, staying at the Griswold House. He had met Will Howe Foote earlier in Europe and perhaps knew some of the other artists from New York who were working in Old Lyme. At any rate, Voorhees knew the area from his earlier stay.
He was married to Maud Christine Folson in August, 1904, and the couple moved to Lyme. They restored a 1740 gambrel-roof cottage situated at the edge of the Connecticut River, and the house and garden eventually became subjects for several of the artist’s paintings, such as My Garden.
Although Voorhees stayed in Connecticut year-round at first, he maintained club memberships in New York City and had an active exhibition schedule outside Old Lyme. Beginning in 1901 he exhibited regularly at the National Academy of Design, and he was also represented in exhibitions at the Carnegie Institute and the Art Institute of Chicago. He was awarded a bronze medal at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, the Hallgarten Prize at the National Academy in 1905, and the Eaton Purchase Prize of the Lyme Art Association in 1929. His memberships included the Salmagundi Club, the Century Club, the Stockbridge (Massachusetts) Art Association, and the artists’ cooperative, Grand Central Art Galleries, of which he was a founder in 1923.
Beginning in 1919, Voorhees and his family spent winters in Somerset, Bermuda, where Voorhees established another studio and apparently gained an excellent reputation. In the art section of the British Commonwealth Exposition in 1925, Bermuda chose to be represented solely by the work of Clark Voorhees. Both in Bermuda and in Old Lyme, Voorhees did painting that ranged from moonlit tonalist landscapes to high impressionistic studies. Though he was best known for his oils, he began to etch as well in his later years and produced many prints.
Despite his travels to New York City, Newport, Rhode Island, Bermuda, and other places, Voorhees was devoted to the art colony and to Old Lyme and played an active role in both. He exhibited with the Lyme group from the outset and served as the Art Association’s secretary for several years. He was a charter member of the local volunteer fire department. In 1919 he was elected trustee of the local library, which represented an acceptance by the town of the artists in their midst. Minutes for the meeting in which Voorhees won his board membership state that "After discussion on the question of having the artists now resident in Lyme represented on the corporation, as tending to bind them more closely to the interests of the Library, it was decided to elect one of them." The experiment must have worked well, because by 1927 Voorhees was president of the library board.