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 Roger Wilson Dennis  (1902 - 1996)

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Lived/Active: Connecticut      Known for: landscape-coastal-garden, genre

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A second generation member of the Old Lyme Art Colony in Connecticut, Roger Dennis exhibited there from 1940 to 1985 and had a seventy-five year career of landscape painting, specializing in dazzling floral views. Known as the last surviving link to the artists of Old Lyme Colony, he took special joy in painting compositions en plein air with masses of garden colors.

He was of Scottish descent and was raised in Connecticut as a farmhand and gardener. His first art teacher was Frank Bicknell, and later he studied with George Bruestle and also painted with members of the Old Lyme Art Colony including Guy Wiggins and Nelson White.

He taught at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London, Connecticut, and the Director, William Douglas, encouraged Dennis to study art restoration and conservation, which he did at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington D.C. and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. After this training, he established and operated the conservation laboratory at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum for more than thirty years. During this time, he restored the famous panels by early 20th century artists on the walls and doors of the Florence Griswold Museum at Old Lyme.

In Old Lyme, he was active in the Art Association for more than fifty years, and when he died in 1996, Sharon Griffis, Director of the Griffis Art Center, led the successful effort to establish a garden at the Art Center. It was dedicated in 1997.

In February, 1988, Dennis was featured in "American Artist" magazine in an article titled 'Roger Dennis---Old Lyme Impressionist' (pp. 30-38).

Source: Patricia Shippee, "Roger Dennis, American Impressionist," AMERICAN ART REVIEW, August 1999.

Biography from Shippee Fine Art:
Born in Norwich, Connecticut, Roger Dennis has been considered one of Connecticut's premier Impressionist painters. Often called "our link with the best of the past," he knew and worked with many of the Lyme Colony artists who made the Florence Griswold House their headquarters at the turn of the century. He was devoted to the Lyme Art Association and its members, and served on the Exhibition Committee for many years.

In the early 1930s, he studied with James McManus at the Art Students League in Hartford; with Allen Cochran in Woodstock, New York; and Emile Gruppe in Gloucester.

After working as a sign painter for the city of New London, as well as a part-time musician and artist, he studied painting conservation and restoration. He set up and ran the Conservation department at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum for thirty-three years. During this time, he was also a Conservator for the Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford and had the opportunity to work on the preservation of many styles and types of art for museums and private collections.

His earlier works are in a realistic mode, which later developed into his own style of Impressionism. Like many of the Old Lyme Impressionists, he painted the local landscape at different times of day and in different seasons of the year, invoking changing moods. The "mood" of the weather often determined his brushstroke...sometimes quick and with a sketchy look where his brushwork left white canvas showing between the colors, and other times using heavy impasto of layered and expressive colors. His sense of color, light and shadow have a quality of charm and beauty...and the joy of execution is apparent.

His love of nature is alive in his paintings. His earlier paintings included figure and still life, but his favorite subjects were landscapes as he captured the salt marshes of the Connecticut rivers, woods and glades, rocky pastures, overlooks and old oak trees. And his love of New England is evident---the rocky seacoast and harbors of Maine and the woods, barns, stone walls, farms, country roads, mountains and streams of New Hampshire and Vermont. Color-filled summer gardens were always a favorite subject.

In 1993, Roger Dennis was the subject of an hour-long "Art Talk" television feature entitled "Through the Eyes of Roger Dennis" sponsored by the Griffis Art Center. In June 1997, the Roger W Dennis Impressionist Garden was dedicated in his memory on the grounds of the Griffis Art Center in New London, Connecticut.

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Roger Dennis is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Old Lyme Colony Painters

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