Alonzo M. Kimball (1874 – 1923)
Images of pretty women were a specialty of Alonzo Kimball, who created them for books, ads, postcards, and the covers of popular magazines like Scribner’s and The Saturday Evening Post, so it is fitting that he chose to paint a lovely lady on a decorative panel for Griswold dining room. The parasol that shields this lady also sets off her pretty profile. What thoughts have prompted her to close her eyes and smile just a little? In her gauzy white dress, with her hair artfully arranged in the latest turn-of-the-20th-century style, and her fashionable “picture hat” perched just so, she seems rather more ready for a walk in a city street or park than for a turn in a natural landscape. On this porch, perhaps that of the Griswold House itself (although the balusters are different from the extant lattice work), she seems unaware of how close she is to nature, to grass, water, and trees. Kimball makes us aware, however, of how engrossed she is in her own concerns with such artistic devices as the narrow shape of the picture itself, which encloses her so tightly that part of her dress and umbrella are cut off, and by brushstrokes that are generally vertical for her, slanted on the porch floor, and horizontal in the autumnal landscape beyond, which is, in any case, suggested rather than realized.
Artist Arthur Heming in Miss Florence
and the Artists of Old Lyme, c. 1930s
Kimball added Miss Florence’s name to his picture, but if he was suggesting that it was her portrait, he was guilty of outrageous flattery. Florence Griswold, though adored by the artists who stayed in her home, was neither young, pretty, slim, nor fashionable when Kimball painted this work.
When and how long Kimball stayed at the Griswold House is not known, but his romantic pictures of women date mostly to the first decade of the 20th century. That he was asked to contribute a panel at all is odd in itself. He had traditional art training in New York and Paris, but he made his living as an illustrator in an era when illustration was not considered fine art. The artists at the Griswold House were high-minded about Art.
Somehow Kimball must have impressed or charmed them into awarding him the honor of painting a panel. His fashionable lady of leisure, however, is an interesting foil to Willard Metcalf’s portrayal of one of his female students on a dining room panel nearby. Other paintings of woman at leisure include William Chadwick’s On the Piazza (1907) and Edmund Greacen’s Lady in a Boat (1920).