J. Alden Weir loved his Ridgefield, Connecticut farm so much, he called it “the Great Good Place.” Today, as one of Connecticut’s two National Historic parks (Coltsville in Hartford is the other)the Weir Farm National Historic Site memorializes the life and historic contributions of 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. He 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. Weir specialized 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 became so enamored with a European still-life Weir had acquired in France that he offered to trade 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 10 dollars.
Weir wasted no time in transforming the Ridgefield, Connecticut farm into an artist’s retreat. He built a home, formal gardens, a man-made pond, and multiple studios on the property. Weir Farm quickly gained a reputation as the epicenter of the American Impressionist movement. For over thirty-six years, Weir lived there, actively welcoming artists both new and old, including fellow Impressionist painters Childe Hassam, Albert Pinkham Ryder, and John Henry Twachtman.
Today, the National Park Service stewards 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 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.
Hildegard Cummings, “Connecticut and American Impressionism,” connecticuthistory.org