Tag Archive for Hartford

Happy Birthday to Mary Rogers Williams!

book cover

book cover and author photo

Today, September 30th, 2020, would have been Mary Rogers Williams’ 163rd birthday. The obscure, often forgotten American tonalist and Impressionist artist was most well known for her stunning pastel and oil portraits and landscapes. Born and raised in Hartford, Connecticut, as a baker’s daughter, Williams travelled widely throughout Europe when she wasn’t teaching in the art department at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. An incredibly active woman, she hiked and biked across Europe, while chafing against art world rules that favored men, and writing thousands of pages that record her travels and work. Her paintings offer remarkable horizon views of ancient ruins, medieval towns, country meadows, and calm waters. Her work was exhibited at various venues in the United States and France while she was still living. Much of her work has stayed in Connecticut and the Northeast, held by institutions including the Smith College Museum of Art, Connecticut Landmarks, and the Connecticut Historical Society.

Forever Seeing New Beauties: The Forgotten Impressionist Mary Rogers Williams, 1857–1907, by Eve Kahn is a finalist for the Connecticut Book Award. The book is up for the Bruce Fraser “Spirit of Connecticut” Award. Bruce Fraser, director of Connecticut Humanities for 28 years, was a proponent of Connecticut’s sense of place. He was interested in how places evoke memory and emotions from people, how people have such ferocious identification and loyalty to their surroundings and how the very landscape influences people. Mary Rogers Williams’ life and legacy embody the values of this award—Williams was deeply tied to, influenced by, and involved with her roots in Connecticut.


Green Landscape—Hills in the Distance (probably Connecticut
River Valley), 1903 pastel, 12 ½ x 22 in. Smith College Museum of Art,
Northampton, MA, gift of the sisters of Mary Rogers

Until recently, little was known or remembered about Williams. But in 2012, the artist’s confessional letters as well as hundreds of her paintings and sketches turned up in storage at a Connecticut family’s home. The resulting book reveals her as strong, funny, self-deprecating, caustically critical of mainstream art, and observant of everything from soldiers’ epaulettes to colorful produce layered on delivery trucks. She was determined to paint portraits and landscapes in her distinctive style—and so she did. The book reproduces her unpublished artworks that capture pensive gowned women, Norwegian slopes reflected in icy waters, saw-tooth rooflines on French chateaus, and incense hazes in Italian chapels. Forever Seeing New Beauties offers a vivid portrayal of an adventurer, defying her era’s expectations on a tight budget. Today we remember Mary Rogers Williams for her standout style, adventurous personality, and bold wit.

The author, Eve Kahn, will be lecturing on the book for Boston Design Week, on October 14th, in remote event. Learn more and register here. 


Some of Mary Rogers Williams’ letters and papers. Photo by Eve Kahn.



Enjoy a slide show from Pablo Delano’s “Hartford Seen”

“With the images in Hartford Seen Pablo Delano captures the delicate balance between architectural permanence and the evanescence of community—a celebration of generations of residents and the structures they’ve shaped.”
—Frank Mitchell, Executive Director, The Amistad Center for Art & Culture

With more than 150 full-color images, Hartford Seen vitally expands the repertoire of photographic studies of American cities and of their contemporary built environments.

Hartford Unseen is a personal meditation on the city’s built environment. Documentary photographer Pablo Delano implements a methodical but intuitive approach, scrutinizing the layers of history embedded in the city’s fabric. He documents commercial establishments, industrial sites, places of worship, and homes with a painter’s eye to color and composition. His vision tends to eschew the city’s better-known landmarks in favor of vernacular structures that reflect the tastes and needs of the city’s diverse population at the dawn of the twenty-first century.

Over the last 100 years Hartford may have transformed from one of America’s wealthiest cities to one of its poorest, but as suggested by Hartford Seen, today it nevertheless enjoys extraordinary cultural offerings, small entrepreneurship, and a vibrant spiritual life. The city’s historical palette consists mostly of the brownstone, redbrick, and gray granite shades common in New England’s older cities. Yet Delano perceives that it is also saturated with the blazing hues favored by many of its newer citizens.

In his essay, “Hartford Unseen,” Guillermo B. Irizarry explains how Delano was born in Puerto Rico to Eastern European Jewish artist emigrants. Moving to Hartford from the Bronx, Delano, as explained by Irizarry, “has for the past two decades scrutinized layers of history embedded in the Connecticut capital’s built environment.” The first major exhibition of this work was held at the Connecticut Historical Society in 2014. In the original exhibit catalog, artist Richard Hollant noted how “[p]eople walking down [the] street see things differently because cities like ours are built on hierarchies, and the people within them…adapt this model to make sense of their city in their own way…based on economic conditions, some by historical or social context, others by location.” Delano presents his metropolis “in a state of flux,” as he explains, where architecture, small businesses, and residential neighborhoods experience a visual layering as a result of change.

An introduction by Laura Wexler and the aforementioned essay by Guillermo B. Irizarry frame the historical context of the images, from the land theft and forced removal of Natives in the 17th century through the city’s role in the slave trade and succession of immigrant communities that have called Hartford home over the decades. Traces of these stories are evident in Delano’s photographs, seen in the changing architecture, housing, public art, and colorful signage that grace Hartford’s neighborhoods and commercial districts.

PABLO DELANO holds BFA in painting from Temple University Tyler School of Arts and an MFA in painting from Yale University School of Art. He is a tenured Associate Professor of Fine Arts and the Chair of the Department of Fine Arts at Trinity College, in Hartford, Connecticut, where he has lived and taught for almost twenty-five years.