A Passion for Art History


By Elizabeth J. Normen

(c) Connecticut Explored Inc. Winter 2006/2007

Subscribe/Buy the issue!

With this issue, HOG RIVER JOURNAL begins its 5th year of publication. To the many, many of you who have been with us from the beginning, a hearty thanks for your support and enthusiasm. For those readers who are just discovering HRJ, welcome! We hope you become as “High on the HOG” as we are!

Sure, there have been nay-sayers along the way, including those who said it couldn’t be done and those who were sure we’d run out of material in short order. Not so! In fact, we have begun revisiting “chestnut” themes (our two issues on historic preservation, for example) because there are more great stories to tell. In this issue, our second on the state’s art history, we uncovered such a wealth of intriguing topics just in the visual arts alone that we decided to focus there.

I love art and art history. I majored in studio art in college and am an alumnus of the Wadsworth Atheneum and Hill-Stead Museum staffs. During graduate school in American Studies at Trinity College, I mined the Atheneum’s history for two papers and am now pleased to present in this issue for the first time the untold story of Florence Paull Berger. Berger stood at the forefront of the curatorial field at the turn of the 20th century and was a nearly one-person museum staff who, over a 33-year career beginning in 1918, set the stage for the arrival of legendary director and champion of the modern Chick Austin—and then took over as interim director when he was fired for being perhaps a bit more modern than the Atheneum’s trustees could bear.

Up next is a return to the themes of health (the history of which I always find slightly and thrillingly
macabre!) for spring and industrial history for fall. For summer, though, we will explore for the first time the history of education, a theme we have been talking about for years. All of these themes have strong connections to the present. The near-hysteria pitch of predictions of the next pandemic, for example, set us wondering about the flu epidemic of 1918; the near-hysteria pitch of predictions of our educational system’s it failure set us pondering whether we really did such a great job in the past.

HRJ’s editorial mission is not to glorify the past at the expense of the present or future but to plumb our history for insights into how we got to where we are today, to measure our progress, and to be inspired anew by the accomplishments, creativity, back-breaking work, and gumption of those who came before us. All that could get pretty heavy, so we also consider whether each article is simply “a good story” and can be illustrated with evocative images. We’ve got a good dose of both in this issue. The common theme in these stories is passion—the dogged determination to create and, in doing so, to capture the essence of a time, place, and spirit that is uniquely Connecticut.

I hope you, too, find inspiration in these pages–and a good story, and a painting or photograph you fall in love with.


Read all of the stories from the Winter 2006/2007 issue

Read all of our stories about Connecticut’s Art History on our TOPICS page


Comments are closed.