An Impressionist in Greenwich

By the mid-to-late 1880s, American painter John Henry Twachtman was an accomplished and well-respected artist and, around 1889, had earned enough money to acquire a home and seventeen-acre tract in Greenwich, Connecticut. The charming, humble abode and sprawling property, full of gardens, trees, and streams, became the primary focus of his work throughout the remainder of his career. Ensconced in nature, he was able to study and paint various subject matter in different seasons, lights, and conditions.

“I feel more and more contented with the isolation of country life. To be isolated is a fine thing and we are all then nearer to nature. I can see how necessary it is to live always in the country—at all seasons of the year.” - John Henry Twachtman

Although Greenwich Garden is signed by Twachtman’s eldest son, John Alden, it is believed to be primarily the work of John Henry. The painting depicts the back of his home obscured by cascading flowers and vegetation, and evokes Japanese prints with its lack of recession and flat, superimposed forms. The brushstrokes, lines, and shapes used exhibit his touch, with the exception of the somewhat more mechanical clipped strokes of the leaves along the upper edge, which are in keeping with John Alden’s style and comparable to the few paintings of his that are known.

John Alden was also an artist; he studied at the Yale School of Art and the École des Beaux-Arts and later became an architect and mural painter. Lisa Peters has proposed that perhaps the elder Twachtman involved his son directly in the creation of the present work, even going so far as to allow him to sign it. It is also possible, however, that John Alden completed the piece after it was left unfinished when John Henry died suddenly of a brain aneurysm in 1902 at the age of 49. He is known to have completed other paintings by his father, thus the latter supposition seems more likely. John Alden kept the work in his private collection and it descended through the Twachtman family until 1990. An important example within his oeuvre, Greenwich Garden remains as a testament to John Henry’s Twachtman’s prodigious talent as an Impressionist painter and his unique ability to depict the very essence of his surroundings.

In my mind I have finer pictures than ever before. Ten thousand pictures come and go every day and those are the only complete pictures painted, pictures that shall never be polluted by paint and canvas.

John Henry Twachtman