Florence Griswold Museum

Arthur Heming: Chronicler of the North

February 8 to June 2, 2013

The exhibition is presented with the generous support of Bouvier ● Champion Insurance and the Nika P. Thayer Exhibition and Publication Fund.

Photos from Opening

Listen to what Museum London in London, Ontario, Canada Curator, Casssandra Getty, has to say about Heming, including his time here with the Lyme Art Colony.

Arthur Heming’s paintings and illustrations symbolize Canada. At the height of his career Arthur Henry Howard Heming (1870-1940) was among Canada’s best-known artists, gaining particular attention in the United States and Europe. Heming’s paintings, drawings, prints, and writings cemented Canada’s image as “The Great White North,” a wilderness paradise for outdoor adventure. The Florence Griswold Museum is the only venue in the United States for this international exhibition. Organized by Museum London in London, Ontario, from Canadian and American museums and private collections, Chronicler of the North is the first retrospective that explores and provides insight into the artist’s achievements.

The Group of Seven

As part of the exhibition, examples of Impressionist-influenced works by members of Canada’s influential painters’ ensemble known as the Group of Seven are shown in contrast to Heming’s narrative, action-packed images.

Franklin Carmichael, Farm and Stump Fences, Orillia, 1936. Oil on card. Collection of Museum London; Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James Mastin, Richmond Hill, Ontario


Emily Carr, Mountains and Houses, Pemberton, B.C., 1933. Oil on paper on canvas. Collection of Museum London; Gift of Jim and Melinda Copp Harrison, Oakville





Lawren Harris, Northern Autumn, 1922. Oil on canvas, 81 x 97 cm, Collection of Museum London, Art Fund, 1949. Photo credit: Linda Louwagie-Neyens




Lawren Harris, Glaciers, Rocky Mountains, undated (c. late 1920s). Oil on card, 30 x 38 cm, Collection of Museum London; Gift of the F. B. Housser Memorial Collection, 1945. Photo credit: John Tamblyn






Arthur Lismer, The Glacier (High Altitudes), 1930. Oil on canvas, 81 x 101.6 cm, Collection of Museum London; Purchase, 1956. Photo credit: Linda Louwagie-Neyen








Arthur Heming at Miss Florence's Boardinghouse

The Florence Griswold Museum is an especially fitting location to exhibit the art of Arthur Heming. As a regular at the Lyme Art Colony and a close friend of Florence Griswold, Heming is best remembered in America for his memoir of life in the Griswold boardinghouse (now the Florence Griswold Museum). This memoir, which is entitled Miss Florence and the Artists of Old Lyme, will be re-issued in a new edition on the occasion of the exhibition. (Check back for relesae date.)


For the dining room panel that would his mark his stay in the Griswold House, Arthur Heming chose the wilderness subject matter he was best known for. He knew firsthand what it was like to brave dangerous rapids in a fragile canoe. The scene looks too wild for even the most skilled canoeists to run. Heming was not interested in photographic representation of actual facts. He dramatized his imagery with boldly emphasized patterns and sweeping, strongly marked rhythms.






Symbols of Canada

Arthur Heming exhibited his work regularly in galleries, sometimes alongside the Group of Seven, and with greatest success in a British solo show in 1934. His work extolls Canada as a sort of snowy Eden, even as it recognizes the hardship of life beyond the frontier. Realistic and narrative in nature, the work for which he gained the most attention is also often surreal, populated by “flying” bears, deer and canoes, and fanciful snowscapes. In Canada’s Fairyland (Collection of the Art Gallery of Hamilton) features a deer leaping between snow-laden bushes whose incredible shapes almost suggest snowmen come to life. Heming’s subjects and approach differed radically from that of the Group of Seven, whose artwork offered more of a personal response to the Canadian landscape. Their goal was to express the native essence that radiated from the land and flora.

Heming’s set of twelve oil paintings on the Canadian fur trade (many of which are represented in the exhibition) were introduced in the Globe (Toronto) on June 30, 1920. Their relevance to the cultural history of Canada was recognized immediately. Described as “representing one great phase of the country’s national life,” the series was hailed as a “national collection.” It is in these paintings that one sees some of the best examples of Heming’s methods. He restricts himself to a spare palette of black, white, grays, and yellow, imparting a structural clarity and simplicity to define forms, pattern, and massing to great graphic effect. The large scale of the works, each measuring 30 x 40 inches (or vice versa), provides a monumentality befitting Heming’s grand vision of “far north” and heightens the drama of the scene. Tension between man and nature, man and animal, and even between man and man is a recurring theme in Heming’s work. In The Otter Poachers, 1919 (collection of the Royal Ontario Museum), the perpetrators in the foreground, focused on their illegal bounty, are oblivious to the imminent danger. Only through careful viewing of Heming’s entire tableau does one become aware of a third man, half-visible as a reflection in the open water, with rifle cocked to defend his territory.

A striking fact about Heming’s practice was his apparent color blindness. Much has been made of his condition, describing a constraint that perhaps forced him to develop the glowing light effects and strobing graphic elements that are characteristic of his black-and-white paintings. In Aurora Borealis, ca. 1906 (collection of the Florence Griswold Museum), a spectacular array of light illuminates the landscape with an otherworldly glow. Monochromes like this are arguably his most interesting and idiosyncratic avenue of expression. With black and white and hues of cream to acid yellow, he arranges bands of radiating energy on canvas. Whether Heming’s use of monochrome was based on his sight, or on an illustrator’s love of pared-down design, is an area for further study. Heming was also masterful at using light to create tension or to express the grandeur of nature.


In addition to his artwork Heming was an accomplished writer and traveler. His knowledge of the land allowed him to portray a unique, meticulously-researched analysis of the human and animal inhabitants of Canada’s remote areas. A hard worker and astute businessman, Heming serialized chapters of his books as many as seven times across different magazines. After his first book Spirit Lake, Heming published two other novels. The Drama of the Forests (1921, subtitled Romance and Adventure), is perhaps his greatest book, and The Living Forest which appeared in 1925. Heming also wrote two manuscripts about the art colony in Old Lyme, Connecticut. Heming became one of the central figures in the Lyme Art Colony, even contributing one of the panels to the famed dining room ensemble within the Griswold House.

Heming remains a cult figure to historians, art aficionados, and outdoorsmen. His work is equally important for its aesthetic merit as it is in the formation of Canadian identity. “This exhibition offers us unique insight into our image and perceptions of our neighbor to the north and allows us to recognize the key role played by Heming in defining their identity,” states Amy Kurtz Lansing, Curator at the Florence Griswold Museum. “I am pleased that Chronicler of the North reintroduces his work to audiences in Canada and the United States.” The exhibition will be accompanied by Arthur Heming: Chronicler of the North, the first book about Heming’s work, published by Museum London, which will be available in the Museum Shop. (Check back for relesae date.)



Special Events Held in Conjunction with the Exhibition

Tour the Great White North: Investigating the World of Arthur Heming
Friday, Feb. 8
Cassandra Getty, Curator of Art,
Museum of London
Included with museum admission
Join Cassandra Getty as she leads viewers
through Arthur Heming: Chronicler of the North.
A significant member of the Lyme Art Colony,
Heming was conspicuous not only for his red hair
and dandified appearance, but for his imagery
which created a mythical vision of Canada as an
untamed “Great White North.”

Winter Wonderment Weekend for Families
Saturday, February 9, 10am-5pm
Sunday, February 10, 1-5pm

Children 12 and under are always free!
Everyone needs a little creative wintertime fun. Both days, visitors enjoy scavenger hunts in the Griswold House, special “Can You Find Me? Cards” in the Krieble Gallery, and hands-on crafts in the Hartman Education Center. Each day there is a special event included with admission to keep families entertained.

Saturday, February 9
Toe Jam Puppet Band’s “Winter Variety Show”
Included with admission
This fun-filled show features an extraordinary puppet creation that blows a snowstorm out its nose! The show also includes a Penguin Line Dance and a variety of Toe Jam's favorite interactive songs, dances, and puppet shows—a fun celebration of winter!

Sunday, February 10
1:30pm and 3pm
Included with admission
Brrrrrrrrr!—Animals in Winter
From squirrels to salamanders, animals have amazing plans for surviving the cold weather. Museum Educators from the Pequotsepos Nature Center, Mystic, CT will introduce visitors to live animals and share the different survival strategies of our local wildlife.

Day Trip - Oh, Canada: Canadian Contemporary Art at Mass MoCA
Thursday, March 14
Fee: $110. Reserve at FlorenceGriswoldMuseum.org or call (860) 434-5542, ext. 111.

Only a Museum the size of Mass MoCA could present the largest survey of contemporary Canadian art ever produced outside Canada. Featuring work by more than 60 artists who hail from every province, spanning multiple generations, and working in all media. The visit includes guided tours of the exhibition, boxed lunches, a creative hands-on project in their art studio, and time to self-guide the Museum (which includes 105 of Sol LeWitt’s large wall drawings).

Wild Fancy: Morality and Nationalism in Arthur Heming’s Illustrations and Paintings of the North
Thursday, April 18
Jaleen Grove, historian of illustration and Canadian art
Fee: $7 ($5 members)
Register Online
Heming became a leading Canadian illustrator and painter of the Northern frontier, making it emblematic of Canadian national identity. This presentation surveys Heming’s work and discusses the role Heming’s moralizing played in his negotiating between the rival contexts of Canadian nationalism versus American publishing that resulted in some rather bizarre images of the North.

Wild Neighbors 101 — How To Be a Good Neighbor to Wildlife
Sunday, April 21
1:30pm and 3pm
Pequotsepos Nature Center, Mystic
Included with museum admission
Animals live all around us, in our yards, parks, trees, and even under our sheds. Learn ways to be the best possible neighbor to wildlife—what to do if you find a hurt animal or baby bird or see a slow turtle crossing the road. Find out if it is okay to feed or pet wild animals and much more.

Image credits

Richard Jack, Arthur Heming, R.C.A., O.S.A. , 1929. Oil on canvas, 75.5 x 62.7 cm (29.72 x 24.68 in). Collection of the Art Gallery of Hamilton

Arthur Heming, Shooting the Rapids, Florence Griswold House Dining Room, Florence Griswold Museum

Arthur Heming, In Canada's Fairyland, 1930. Oil on canvas, 76 x 101.9 cm (29.92 x 40.11 in). Collection of the Art Gallery of Hamilton

Arthur Heming, The Otter Poachers, 1919 (artwork for illustration in The Drama of the Forests). Oil on canvas. Collection of the Royal Ontario Museum

Arthur Heming, Aurora Borealis, c. 1906. Oil on board, 50.8. x 32.4 cm (20 x 12.76 in), Collection of the Florence Griswold Museum

Arthur Heming, Canadian Pioneers, 1931. Oil on canvas, 61.0 x 81.3 cm (24.02 x 32 in). Collection of The Canadian Anglo-Boer War Museum

Photo, Arthur Heming. Collection of the Florence Griswold Museum




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Meseum Membership

Read more about Heming and his art on these two Museum webpages...

Heming's Life

Heming's Art

Museum Announces a New Edition of Out-of-Print Book

The Museum is pleased to announce a new edition of the cherished book Miss Florence and the Artists of Old Lyme by Arthur Heming, one of the original artists of the Lyme Art Colony. Not only does this story sparkle with the fun and informative anecdotes about daily life in a boardinghouse for artists, it captures the spirit of a bygone era in American art history. As Museum Director Jeffrey Andersen explains, “Miss Florence and the Artists of Old Lyme draws upon Heming’s experience of living in the ‘Holy House,’ as the artists’ boardinghouse was affectionately referred to, during the first decade of the twentieth century. This was a time when the colony was at its height, attracting such leading painters as Henry Ward Ranger, Childe Hassam, and Willard Metcalf, and public figures like Woodrow Wilson.” This edition also features an entire selection of full-color pages depicting the famed painted doors and wall panels in the Griswold House. Beautifully designed as a hardcover book with illustrations by The New Yorker cartoonist James Stevenson, Miss Florence and the Artists of Old Lyme will be a welcome addition to any home library and makes a great gift for the art or history lover in your life.


Orders can be placed by calling The Shop at 860.434.5542, ext.111 or by ordering online here.

There is a comprehensive publication that accompanies the traveling exhibition Arthur Heming: Chronicler of the North. This retrospective exhibition examines the career of celebrated artist, author and illustrator Arthur Heming (1870-1940). An avid northern explorer, his work helped to entrench perceptions of Canada as the "Great White North."

Many of Heming's paintings begin with naturalistic elements, which he exaggerated into wild, even surreal compositions intended to accentuate the "virtues" of Canada as a sort of snowy Eden, though one matter-of-factly described as full of hardship and death. This approach differed radically from that of his colleagues in the Group of Seven, who for decades set the very definition of Canadian art.

In his time Heming's exhibitions and books reached a large audience both in Canada and abroad. Although less well-known today, his work enjoys a large cult following, and he is remembered in the United States as an important member of a renowned artist colony at Old Lyme, Connecticut.

Hardcover edition, 124 pages, many full color reproductions as well as text in both English and French.


Orders can be placed by calling The Shop at 860.434.5542, ext.111 or by ordering online here.