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Reading 2: Impressions of Weir's Farm
"Here shall we rest and call content our home."¹
Perhaps the painter closest to Weir was his half-brother, John Ferguson Weir, a member of the Hudson River School and the first Dean of Fine Arts at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. John was a frequent visitor to the farm and also drew inspiration from the gentle landscape. The brothers exchanged thoughts and criticism about their work for their entire lives, always drawing support and encouragement from the otherís opinions. They also shared a deep love of the Connecticut landscape. In a letter to J. Alden dated 1883, John informed his brother of his relaxing trip to the farm:
We often speak of you as we sit on the pleasant porch in the evening twilight. I imagine you and Anna [Weirís first wife], seated in your two armchairs, sitting in these twilights in the future summers. I advise you to hang on to this place, old boy, a "lonesome lodge" which is a pleasant place of retreat in storm and drought is no bad thing to have--for an artist--keep it trim and untrammelled, and you will find it a haven of refuge. The air is fine and healthy--and I see no drawbacks....²
Like John, J. Alden agreed that only good could come from time in the country. In fact, he provided the benefits of his farm to his friends and acquaintances, and invited many to come relax and recover at his retreat. A Weir family legend tells of the great John Singer Sargent visiting the farm for the first time, running around the backyard trying to catch fireflies which he had never seen before.
A third famous artist to visit Weir Farm was Albert Pinkham Ryder. Even today, art historians have difficulty categorizing Ryder. Reared in the city, he was an urban recluse, prone to illness and insomnia. Ryder was persuaded, however, to join the Weir family in the country on several occasions. Ryder used the visit to recover his health, coming and going undisturbed from the main house through a door Weir had cut into the guest room for this sole purpose. Ryder completed several paintings of Weirís landscape, and later thanked Weir for the pleasure of his visit:
I have never seen the beauty of spring before; which is something to have lived and suffered for. The landscape and the air are full of promise. That eloquent little fruit tree that we looked at together, like a spirit among the more earthy colors, is already losing its fairy blossoms. Showing the lesson of life; how alert we must be if we would have its gifts and lessons.³
Questions for Reading 2
1. How did Weirís student experiences in Europe influence his life at Weir Farm?
2. Why do you think John Weir thought his brother should hang onto the "lonesome lodge"?
3. Compare the descriptions of the three visits to the farm. How would you describe the effect life in the country had on these grown men? Is there a place that makes you feel this way?
Reading 2 was compiled from the Dorothy Weir Young Scrapbooks and other sources at the Weir Farm National Historic Site.
¹Letter from John Ferguson Weir to J. Alden Weir dated August 2, 1883. Dorothy Weir Young Scrapbooks: 1882 to December 1883, Weir Farm National Historic Site.