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Lucien Abrams

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Lucien Abrams
Lyme Art Colony
American, (June 10, 1870–April 14, 1941) In Lyme: By November 1914-1941
When Lucien Abrams graduated from Princeton in 1896, the university offered him a post as instructor of Latin -- a subject he excelled in. Intent on becoming an artist, Abrams declined the offer and spent the next two winters studying at the Art Students League in New York. Like so many of the Old Lyme group, Abrams later enrolled at the Academie Julian in Paris, where he received instruction from Benjamin Constant and Jean-Paul Laurens. Yet years later, Abrams would note that “My art was developed, not in the schools, but by independent study before nature, not trying to copy, but to interpret, to find order in chaos, and put it in plastic form.”

Since his family had considerable means, Abrams was able to live and travel in Europe from the time of his enrollment in the Academie Julian in 1894 until 1915. He was strongly influenced by Whistler during a short period at the later’s art school in Paris. It is true, nevertheless, that most of his study was done independently during his extensive travels through Europe. He painted in Belgium, Provence, Brittany, Southern France, Italy, and Spain. In 1905-06 he spent six months in Algeria. In museums he studied the Old Masters and developed a keen sense of art connoisseurship. Particularly interested in the French Impressionists, Abrams over the years amassed an important collection of paintings by Auguste Renoir, now in the Marion Koogler McNay Art Institute in San Antonio, Texas.

From 1902 until 1914, Lucien Abrams exhibited annually in Paris at the Salon d’Automne and the Salon des Independants. His participation in French art circles no doubt contributed to the influeces of Impressionism, post-Impressionism, and Fauvism that are evident in his work. Abrams said that his aim was “to interpret the beauty of reality; to place it in expressive form before others.”

The Old Lyme landscapes of his mature years reflect this aim most clearly. Using a lean palette -- he once said that he had tried to limit himself to five colors --marked by rich shades of blue, green, red, and white, Abrams worked with swatches of paint, alternating in thickness, that produce harmonies of bold color. Unfortunately this approach does not translate well in his figure studies, where his deficiencies as a draftsman became apparent.

Abrams was a relative latecomer to Old Lyme, arriving in 1914, when he was forty-four years old. He and his wife, Charlotte Gina Onillon, a native of Paris and a graduate of the Sorbonne, had just recently been married. They purchased a summer residence in Old Lyme that commanded a fine view of Long Island Sound. Abrams was an active member of the Lyme Art Association and exhibited there every year from 1915 until the 1930s. Mrs. Abrams continued to live in Old Lyme until her death in 1961.

Abrams had a one-man exhibition in this period at Pabst Galleries in San Antonio, Texas, where he had a winter home, and at Durand-Ruel Galleries, New York. His work was featured in the 1978 exhibition Three American Impressionists: From paris to Old Lyme at A.M. Adler Fine Art, Inc., New York. Abrams was a member of the American Federation of Artists, the Lyme Art Association, and the Princeton Club of New York City. He died in New Haven, April 14, 1941.

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