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Lyme Art Colony
(Octobert 17, 1857–October 29, 1937)
In Lyme: summers 1902-1937
It is not known for certain when Bruce Crane (1857-1937) first visited Old Lyme, but a 1927 exhibition review claimed that he “had already discovered the charming village on the Sound before Ranger went there.” This observation is supported by the Connecticut titles of landscapes he exhibited at the National Academy of Design in 1888 and 1890. Crane’s address for the latter year is listed as Milford, a shoreline community outside of New Haven. By 1900 or shortly thereafter he undoubtedly spent time in Old Lyme, but it was not until 1919 that he began to exhibit annually with the Lyme Art Association. By then he had already been honored with innumerable medals and exhibitions, and had established a characteristic style in which he continued to work until his death.
Son of an amateur painter and was familiar with New York’s many museums ad galleries, and after attending public schools, he worked in an architect’s office in Elizabeth, New Jersey. In 1879 he began to study with Alexander H. Wyant, who by then had fully adopted the subdued tonality and fluid brush of the Barbizon artists. During the next several years Crane attended classes abroad and at the Art Students League in New York, painting also on Long Island, in New Jersey, and in the foothills of the Adirondacks.
In 1882 Crane spent a summer in the artists’ colony of Grez-sur-Loing, France, under the guidance of Jean Charles Cazin. A letter written by Crane to his father attests to Cazin’s influence. By the 1890s Crane had more fully incorporated Cazin’s technique and moved further from his own luminist springtime studies of the 1880s. His later canvases reflect a preference for winter and autumn woodlands enveloped in an atmospheric haze, and for village scenes softened by moonlight. Many of his winter snowscapes of the period retain a brilliant clarity and a dramatic contrast to his previous work.
Crane’s idyllic landscapes proved extremely popular among both collectors and the art establishment of the time. After his first exhibition at the National Academy of Design in 1879, he was elected an associate in 1889 and a full academician in 1901. He won the Webb prize from the Society of American Artists in 1897, a bronze medal at the Paris Exposition in 1900, and the George Innes gold medal at the National Academy of Design in 1901.
In 1904 Crane married Ann Brainerd, who was his step-daughter by his earlier marriage to Jeanne Burchard Brainerd. Ann Crane was also an artist and exhibited with her husband at the Lyme Art Association on several occasions. For the last twenty-three years of his life, Crane lived with his wife and two children by his second marriage in Bronxville, New York, spending time in Old Lyme, continuing to paint to the last. He died at the age of eighty.