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Matilda Browne

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Matilda Browne
Lyme Art Colony
American, (May 8, 1869–November 3, 1947) In Lyme: 1905-1924
Much evidence suggests that the male artists who gathered at Florence Griswold's house early in the twentieth century refused to take the work of their female colleagues seriously. The artists who boarded at the "Holy House," as the Griswold house was called, did so by invitation and were men, usually established in their careers.

It is surprising then, that amidst this atmosphere, Matilda Browne was asked in 1905 to paint a door panel in the Griswold house. She was the first and last female to do so. No less significant, she was the only woman to be immortalized in Henry Rankin Poore's overmantle, "The Fox Chase," the lively caricature of twenty-three Old Lyme artists engaged in an imaginary hunt that has come to symbolize the colony's esprit-de-corp.

Why, among the scores of women artists in Old Lyme, was Matilda Browne the only one to be accepted as a near equal by her male fellow-artists? Part of the answer may lie in the fact that, from an early age, her talent as an artist was taken seriously. When she was twelve Matilda Browne made her artistic debut with a floral study exhibited at the National Academy of Design. Her formal lessons began three years earlier in the studio of Thomas Moran, who happened to live next door to the Browne family in Newark, New Jersey. Moran apparently enjoyed his young protege's company, inasmuch as he allowed her to observe his techniques and to experiment on her own. He also encourage Matilda to pursue further study, and she soon began to take instruction in flower painting from Eleanor and Kate Greatorex. Examples of her floral compositions were included in exhibitions of the National Academy of Design and the American Water Color Society. Later, she studied with Frederick Freer and the landscapist Charles Melville Dewey.

By the age of sixteen, Browne had taken a special interest in painting animals of all kinds, especially calves. It was approximately at this time that she took lessons with the livestock painter, Carleton Wiggins, with whom she was later associated in Old Lyme. In 1889 Browne went to Paris with her mother and studied at the Academie Julian under Julian Dupre. A year later she traveled to Holland, where she worked for six months with the animal painter Henry Bisbing in the village of Hattem.

Upon Browne's return to New York in 1892 she began to exhibit in the galleries and art associations with increased frequency. In 1889 she won the Dodge Prize at the National Academy of Design, and in 1901 the Third Hallgarten Prize. She also won awards from the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts in 1918 and 1919, and later from the Greenwich Art Association. She was a founding member of the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors.

By 1899 Browne listed addresses in both New York and Greenwich, Connecticut. It may have been through her Greenwich connections that she first learned of Old Lyme. Browne was certainly in Old Lyme in 1905 when she painted the door panel, but she did not begin to exhibit with the Lyme Art Association until 1911. At some point, she bought a house on Lyme Street and lived there with her two sisters.

In 1918 Matilda Browne married Frederick Van Wyck, and in 1932 over one hundred of her pen and ink illustrations were published in her husband's book "Recollections of an Old New Yorker." Frederick Van Wyck died in 1936, and it was probably shortly thereafter that Matilda moved permanently to Greenwich, where she died in 1947.

Artist Objects

Dog 1981.3.4

Flowers 2004.19

Peonies 2013.11

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