Fox Chase Icons

Allen Butler Talcott

(1867 - 1908)

 

Running with the pack in The Fox Chase is fitting for the painter Allen Talcott, who was very much at home in the circle of artists. Shown wearing a hat and blue coat, Talcott appears focused and intent on catching up with the fox. He was indeed catching up on his art career, when at the young age of 41, freshly married with a young son, he died suddenly from a heart attack. In his obituary, the writer shared what fellow colonist Charles Vezin told him about Talcott: “He loved and keenly appreciated nature, and his knowledge of all its phases was unusual. He never used this knowledge to display his cleverness in conversation. He never displayed the technical ability which he possessed by clever work. He painted the salt marshes of the Connecticut and the Lieutenant, the meadows, the lichen covered granite, the gray trunked oaks of his beloved Lyme. His fellows conceded that no one was his peer in the knowledge of trees and how to paint them.”

“From the very beginnings of the founding of the Lyme Art Colony Miss Florence has mothered the artists. Her whole soul has been thrown into the idea of making her old house an attraction for the best men – a home in the true sense where each one might feel that he owned a share of it, that the pleasure and comfort of it was his personal interest.”

~ Artist Allen B. Talcott, c. 1901

Allen B. Talcott (1867-1908)
Spreading Oak, c. 1905
Oil on panel


Allen B. Talcott (1867-1908)
River Island, c. 1901
Oil on wood panel
Gift of the Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company

 

Talcott was born into a prominent and old New England family in Hartford, Connecticut. He displayed an interest in art while in grade school, sketching classmates and teachers into the margins of his books. Many of his wiggle drawings he would make years later at the boardinghouse were caricatures of rich and cultured men and women. He later studied art at the Hartford Art Society with William Tryon before moving to New York to study at the Art Students League. Like many of his Old Lyme buddies, he then went off to Paris to study at the Académie Julien. With his official training complete, he established a studio in Hartford but soon moved back to New York and into the cooperative studio complex founded and developed by Henry Ward Ranger. Talcott followed Ranger to Old Lyme during the second summer of the art colony and quickly became a prominent figure. His letters to Miss Florence during the early years of the colony are tinged with great affection and kindness. In response to his first season at the boardinghouse he wrote: “I went away in such a rush that I did not have time to properly say good-bye or to thank you for one of the most delightful summers that I have ever had.” He would return again and again for eight seasons, during which time he bought an estate in Old Lyme overlooking the Connecticut River, married a New York doctor’s daughter, Katherine Nash Agnew, and had a son whom they named Agnew.

During his Old Lyme years, Talcott focused primarily on painting landscapes inspired by the local marshes, meadows, and forests. He combined all three motifs for his two panels on the door leading out of the dining room into the north rose garden. His trompe l’oeil window looks out on large oak tree growing on the edge of the watery marsh. With work such as this, he soon became known as the painter of trees, celebrating their voluminous shape and rough textures with thick paint colored to capture the somber mood of autumn or splashed with dappled summer light. Being a friend and follower of Henry Ward Ranger, his early work was very much in keeping with the colors and characteristics of Tonalism – sentimental scenes painted with browns, greens, and golds – however, by the middle years of that first decade his palette began to lighten and his brushstrokes to flicker more like the Impressionists. Clearly his friendships and respect for his comrades, Childe Hassam and Frank Vincent DuMond, were artistically influential. He painted en plein air, making oil sketches on wood panels, many of which were fine enough to be considered finished work. By 1910, several of these hung in the parlor of the Griswold boardinghouse.

“I will be glad to be back in the old place again although I have not begun to use up my material. I could work for years on my hundred and thirty sketches and not exhaust the material I have collected but it will not be long before I am back collecting more.”

~ Artist Allen B. Talcott, 1902

Allen B. Talcott (1867-1908)
Path Through the Woods
Oil on panel

 


Allen B. Talcott (1867-1908)
Lyme Meadow, c 1904
Oil on panel

 

A painting in the Museum’s collection by William Birney shows the center hall of the Griswold House festooned with greenery. At first glance, it appears to depict a festive winter holiday interior until you note the summer landscape visible through the open front door. More likely the house was decorated in honor of Miss Florence’s dear friend and former boarder Allen B. Talcott, whose life ended abruptly on June 1, 1908, just as the artists were arriving for a summer of painting.

 


Allen Butler Talcott heading out for a day of plein-air painting

 

Fast Facts:

Allen Butler Talcott
Born April 8, 1867, Hartford, Connecticut
Died June 1, 1908, Old Lyme, Connecticut
In Old Lyme, summers, 1901-08

Talcott was known for painting images of trees, especially oaks, in and around Old Lyme. He painted a tree near the marsh on a door in Miss Florence’s dining room.

Talcott was one of the first artists to join the art colony and soon bought property in Old Lyme overlooking the Connecticut River.

Talcott died suddenly of a heart attack at the beginning of the summer in 1908 at the age of 41.

“Bending lovingly close to the ‘Great River,’ are the homes and studios of Carleton Wiggins, Allen B. Talcott, and Clark G. Voorhees, within view of the pleasant white village of Essex on the opposite shore.”

~ Writer Katharine M. Abbott, 1907

Allen B. Talcott (1867-1908)
Wiggle Drawing (fancy woman knitting)
Graphite on paper

 


Allen B. Talcott (1867-1908)
Wiggle Drawing (woman with opera glasses)
Graphite on paper

 


Allen B. Talcott (1867-1908)
Oak Tree and Marshland
Oil on wood door panels
Gift of the Artist

 


William Verplank Birney (1858-1909)
The Front Hall, 1908
Oil on canvas
Purchased with Funds from the Charles E. Culpeper Foundation