July 19: The American Impressionist Movement Blooms in Ridgefield


Located in Ridgefield, Connecticut, the Weir Farm National Historic Site memorializes the life and historic contributions of J. Alden Weir, one of the most iconic painters of the American Impressionist movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Born in 1852 to a prosperous family, Weir showed artistic promise at an early age and studied at both the National Academy of Design in New York City and the Beaux-Arts School in France before returning to the United States in the 1870s to pursue a full-time career as an art dealer and painter, specializing in the evocative Impressionist style that was all the rage in late 19th century Europe. In 1882, Weir’s good friend and fellow art dealer Erwin Davis was so enamored with a European still-life Weir had acquired in France that he offered to trade him a 153-acre farm in southwest Connecticut for it. After some deliberation, Weir agreed to the deal, and formally purchased the farm on July 19, 1882 in exchange for the still-life painting and ten dollars.

Weir wasted no time in transforming the Ridgefield, Connecticut farm into an artist’s retreat, building a home, formal gardens, a man-made pond, and multiple studios on the property. Weir Farm quickly gained a reputation for being the epicenter of the American Impressionist movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For over thirty-six years, Weir lived on-site while actively welcoming artists both new and old to his farm, including fellow Impressionist painters Childe Hassam, Albert Pinkham Ryder, and John Henry Twachtman.

Today, the National Park Service touts Weir Farm as “a national legacy to American Impressionism and the creative spirit.” The site, open to the public year-round, contains over 70 picturesque acres full of forests, meadows, ponds, gardens, ancient stone walls, and several historic buildings including Weir’s original home and studio. It is the only site in Connecticut that is administered by the National Park Service.

The National Park Service map of Weir Farm National Historic Site in Ridgefield.

Further Reading

Weir Farm National Historic Site (Official NPS website)

Hildegard Cummings, “Connecticut and American Impressionism,” connecticuthistory.org