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Ivan Olinsky

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Ivan Olinsky
Lyme Art Colony
(January 1, 1878–February 11, 1962) In Lyme: summers 1917-1939
Ivan Gregorewitch Olinsky seemed destined to be an artist, for his talent revealed itself early and dramatically. He was born in an agricultural district of Ukraine, where his father owned a farm. One day his grammar school class was visited by a young man who showed a book of drawing he had done at art school. They were the first drawings Olinsky had seen, and he wanted to known how they came to be. Some he had copied from pictures, the art student explained, and some he had seen in his head. Olinsky pulled out a piece of paper, thought of a duck, and drew it, astonishing all onlookers with his skill. Soon after, when he was only nine or ten, Olinsky was invited to join the drawing class at the university in Elizabethgrad, the town near Odessa where his family had moved. He worked there with students twice his age.

In about 1890, the Olinskys emigrated to New York City, where Ivan attended public school and continued to draw all the time, and always people. Classmates told him about the school at the National Academy of Design, and he won admission to it in 1894, after buying a plaster cast of an antique sculpture and drawing it with the level of proficiency that was required.

Olinsky made an impressive entry into the New York at world of the 1910s. He was not exactly a newcomer, because for nearly eight years he had been an assistant to the eminent muralist and stained-glass designer John La Farge, but it was as though he had been invisible all that time. In 1908, at age thirty, Olinsky had determined to try for a career of his own and had moved to Italy with his expectant wife and toddler daighter in order to transform himself into an easel painter. Whe he returned to New York late in 1910, he was immediately courted by the distinguished Macbeth Gallery, which vigorously promoted American art and represented the finest contemporary artists. By 1912 Olinsky was teaching at the National Academy of Design and two years later he was elected an associate member and awarded the Thomas B. Clark Prize in it s annual exhibition.

In 1917 Olinsky brought his family to Old Lyme for the summers to a big white house on Grassy Hill that he had been invited to use. He bought the property a year later and became a summer resident, joining the local art association and exhibiting with it.

Additional Reading: "Faces of Change: The Art of Ivan Olinsky" exhibition catalogue, Willaim Benton Museum of Art, and, The Florence Griswold Museum, 1995.

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