Weir Farm National Historic Site pays tribute not to a single artist, but to an entire style that developed there. Near the turn of the century, Julian Alden Weir invited fellow artists to his farm near Branchville, Connecticut. The rocky, uneven land of the New England countryside, a bane to farmers, proved to be an inspiration to artists. The artists who visited the farm, including Albert Pinkham Ryder, John Twachtman, and Childe Hassam, were struggling to find their artistic identity under the growing influence of the French Impressionists. When Weir first saw the works of Monet and Renoir in 1876, while he was studying at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, he described the exhibition as "worse than the Chamber of Horrors."

Weir Farm National Historic Site
©National Park Service
Weir Farm National Historic Site marks the birthplace of the
American Impressionism Movement.

Fifteen years later, however, the artists at Weir Farm had devised their own version of French Impressionist techniques, and the American Impressionist Movement was born. Unlike the earlier Hudson River painters who found their creative drive in spectacular examples of nature, the American Impressionists preferred more intimate views, such as the play of light on a stretch of land or a simple meadow. The peaceful, pastoral settings in Weir's paintings, such as "The Laundry," "Building a Dam," and "The Border of the Farm," still influence the way many Americans think of the New England landscape.

The friendship between the American Impressionists, nurtured at Weir Farm, was important to the development of the movement. Many of the artists came up on the weekends from New York, and they painted each other's families, as well as the barns, ponds, houses, and gardens of the farm. A great deal of the original Weir Farm remains, including the studios, barns, and houses. In addition, the site, authorized in 1990, includes 60 of the 62 acres of Weir Farm, helping to preserve the open space that inspired a movement of American art.

J. Alden Weir's artistic legend has carried on at Weir Farm through the work of living artists. In 1931, Weir's daughter Dorothy married the sculptor Mahonri Young, a grandson of Brigham Young. Already recognized for his small studies in bronze of the common working man, Young came to live at the farm and continued his work. He built a studio there to accommodate his monumental public work. Dorothy Weir Young, who trained at her father's side, was also an accomplished artist in both oils and watercolor. Since Mahonri Young's death in 1957, the cultivation of art continues at Weir Farm with the work of Sperry and Doris Andrews and visiting artists.

Weir Farm National Historic Site Information

Address: 735 Nod Hill Rd., Wilton, CT
Telephone: 203/834-1896
Hours of Operation: Call for information about programs and scheduled tours
Admission: Free

Learn more about thes­e other national historic sites:

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To learn more about national monuments, memorials, and historic sites, and other travel destinations in North America, visit:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Eric Peterson is a Denver-based author who has contributed to numerous guidebooks about the Western United States.