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Louis Paul Dessar

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Louis Paul Dessar
Lyme Art Colony
American, (January 22, 1867–February 14, 1952) In Lyme: 1901-1950
Encouraged by his friend Henry Ward Ranger, Dessar first came to Old Lyme in 1900. The community’s rural setting was ideally suited to his painting interests; indeed the following year he built his house on a farm on Becket Hill in neighboring Lyme. There he planted an orchard, renovated the outbuildings, and purchased his own sheep and oxen to avoid leaving his hilltop estate to find subjects for his paintings.

Like most of the artists who settled in Old Lyme, Dessar began his art studies in New York and finished them abroad. He was born in Indianapolis and at the age of six moved with his family to New York City. He attended the City University of New York, where he excelled in drawing and was encouraged by his instructors to make as career of painting. At first, his father would not consent and eventually only agreed on the condition that his son paint a convincing likeness of him. This Dessar apparently did, for in the fall of 1883 he was enrolled at the National Academy of Design, where he studied until 1886. During those years he also had a studio in New York while spending summer painting at his parents’ home in Nyack. In the fall of 1886 he sailed for France and studied in Paris for three years at the Academie Julian. He also took courses at the Ecole des Beaux Arts (1889-90) and made summer excursions abroad, primarily to Etaples.

In 1891 Dessar returned briefly to New York to marry Elizabeth Coombe, an art student whom he had met at the National Academy of Design. Later the same year the newlyweds returned to France and for the next eight months lived at Giverny. Unhappy there and angered by a landlord who sold the painting Dessar had painted on a door, the Dessars moved to Etaples.

Once in Lyme, he sold his property in Etaples. Through the 1920s, however, he kept a studio in New York, where he often spent the winters. At one time his address was the cooperative studio-apartment complex developed by Ranger.

Dessar’s paintings were exhibited and honored throughout the 1890s and into the first years of this century. He won medals at the Paris Salon of 1891 and art the Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893. In 1900 he was elected an associate of the Academy and a full member in 1906. Although he was represented in the world expositions in 1901 and 1902, he stopped sending his paintings to competitive exhibitions shortly thereafter, explaining to his agent that he had “refused to submit to juries.” He first exhibited with the Lyme Art Association in 1902 but ceased by 1905, not participating again until the 1930s.

Because Dessar adopted an unusually private life, his later years are not well documented. We do know, however, that by 1927 he had given up active farming and that shortly thereafter was forced to sell the Becket Hill house, but remained in Old Lyme, where he continued to paint the same agrarian subjects that had captured his imagination decades earlier.

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