In Situ: The Painted Panel

  • The Museum will be closed Sunday, April 9 in observance of Easter.

Henry Rankin Poore (1858 – 1916) & Henry Ward Ranger (1859 – 1940)

Hound Dog Baying at the Moon & Bow Bridge by Moonlight

Henry Ward Ranger was delighted with the Griswold House and Old Lyme as a place for a summer art colony like those he had known in France. So when he wanted to do something special for Florence Griswold in 1900, the first summer that he and his friends were together in her home, he decorated a door panel – something he had seen artists do abroad – and he challenged his friend Henry Rankin Poore to complete the picture on the adjacent panel. This was rather like an elaborate version of the wiggle game that the Old Lyme art colonists played, where one artist drew a couple of lines on some paper, then passed it to another, who was expected to turn it into a picture. Since Ranger and Poore aimed at uniting two images into one for this door decoration, we should look at their panels as a pair.

His moonlit scene is of Bow Bridge, the quaint-looking arched bridge over the Lieutenant River that could be seen from Miss Florence’s house. The scene well represents the Tonalism that Ranger promoted, where subdued colors and an often “heavy” atmosphere create an aura of mystery or inspire dreamy feelings.

He stands on another part of the road to the bridge and bays at the full moon. Poore seamlessly matched Ranger’s brushwork and his tones in land, water, and sky. Surely only their artist colleagues would have been able to identify which artist did which panel. Poore was known for his images of animals, Ranger for his landscape views and an often dramatic central light.

These two panels, the first on any Griswold House doors, established a tradition among the colony artists. They are also the only ones not painted directly on a door but on canvas attached to the wood. Perhaps that was done so that Florence Griswold could remove them if she did not want a baying hound dog in her house, but the artists need not have worried. She cherished the gift.