In 1906, Solon Borglum, the renowned sculptor – and brother of Gutzon Borglum, who carved Mount Rushmore – purchased a modest farmhouse on the eastern bank of the Silvermine RIver. Attracted by Borglum and the bucolic surroundings, other artists, including Addison T. Millar, D. Putnam Brinley and his wife Katherine, Richard B. Gruelle and his son Juustin, Carl Schmitt, and Frederick C. Yohn, soon followed. They formed the Silvermine Group of Artists, with the chartered purpose being “to stimulate the zeal for and advance the attainment in painting, sculpture, and other fine art among the members by cooperation and exchange of ideas, and generally to encourage the appreciation of art by the public.”
The Silvermine Group of Artists, also known as the Silvermine Art Colony, differed from most art colonies in that the artists were invited to apply for review, and achieved membership to ‘The Group’ by a unanimous vote. The artists worked independently and brought their work to weekly peer critiques prior to exhibiting their work in the Colony’s popular annual end-of-summer exhibitions.
Solon Borglum died in 1922. In the years between 1906 and 1922, a total of 68 accomplished artists spent at least one summer in Silvermine.
Upon Borglum’s death, members of the Silvermine Group of Artists, together with other local artists, writers, editors, and creative individuals, re-formed as the Silvermine Guild of Artists, with the re-stated and more expansive mission of supporting the arts, providing year-round exhibition space, and establishing classrooms to teach art, pottery, and dance. They raised funds and purchased the Silvermine property where the Silvermine Guild of Artists remains in operation today – 100 years later.
The New Canaan Museum & Historical Society’s exhibition titled The Silvermine Art Colony and The Silvermine Group of Artists, will run from November 17, 2022 to April 29, 2023, and features a mixture of sculptures, paintings, drawings and prints done by 23 of ‘The Group’s’ artists; including notably several of Borglum’s sculptures, Leo Dorn’s woodblock prints, and Edmund M. Ashe’s Spirit of the Pool, which was exhibited at the 1913 New York Armory Show. The exhibition is curated by locals Susan Gunn Bromley and Ed Vollmer, both longtime researchers and collectors of the Silvermine Art Colony art.
The New Canaan Museum & Historical Society is one of New Canaan’s cultural crown-jewels. It’s located at 13 Oenoke Ridge Road in New Canaan, and is open to the public Tuesday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and by appointment on weekends and in evenings. Under the strong leadership of CEO Nancy Geary, the institution puts on exhibits and maintains a permanent curated collection, sponsors programs and performs library services, all focusing on preservation, modernism, education and community.
The Museum’s historic buildings include: the 1825 original Town Hall; the 1764 Hanford-Silliman House that includes New Canaan’s first licensed Tavern; the Cody Pharmacy, New Canaan’s first drug store; the Rock School, New Canaan’s first one-room school house; the 1875 Rogers Studio, a National Landmark; the Tool Museum, home to the only Hoe-Acorn press in Connecticut, and; the Little Red Schoolhouse on Carter Street, New Canaan’s last operating one room schoolhouse. The Museum also operates the 1960 Gores Pavilion in Irwin Park designed by ‘Harvard Five’ architect Landis Gores.