Press Release

Charles Ethan Porter in the Painting Gallery as part of David Hartt: A Colored Garden

NEW CANAAN, Conn. (April 22, 2022) – The Glass House proudly presents a selection of nine still-life paintings by Charles Ethan Porter (1847 – 1923) as part of A Colored Garden, a site-responsive commission by artist David Hartt. On view in the Philip Johnson-designed Painting Gallery, this presentation is the first institutional exhibition of Porter’s work since Charles Ethan Porter: African-American Master of Still Life (organized in 2008 by the New Britain Museum of American Art and curated by Hildegard Cummings); traveled to The Studio Museum in Harlem and the North Carolina Central University Art Museum.

A Colored Garden is the result of an invitation extended to David Hartt to consider a site-responsive commission on The Glass House site. Hartt became interested in the site’s recent transformation from a storied private home to a publicly accessible site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. What narratives are present at the site, and what new narrative possibilities exist? Drawing on the site’s history of gardens, Hartt designed a circular garden for the southern meadow below the Glass House. Spanning forty feet, the garden comprises an array of flowers — including peonies, chrysanthemums, zinnias, and phlox — that bloom sequentially, creating a variation of height, texture, and color. The selection of flowers corresponds to the plant varieties found in the paintings of Porter, a Connecticut native who was among the first Black American artists to exhibit his work nationally and the only such artist that has been recorded to specialize in still lifes at the turn of the century.

David Hartt: A Colored Garden was organized by Cole Akers, Senior Curator, and commissioned by The Glass House, a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The project is supported in part by the Canada Council for the Arts and the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Marge and Joe Grills Fund for Historic Gardens and Landscapes.

A digital brochure detailing the project is available online and includes essays by independent scholar and curator Maureen Cassidy-Geiger as well as Sylvia Yount, Lawrence A. Fleischman Curator in Charge of the American Wing, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Special thanks to Michael Rosenfeld Gallery for their generous loan of Porter’s work.

About Charles Ethan Porter
Charles Ethan Porter was born in 1847 in Rockville, Connecticut. In 1869 he was accepted into the prestigious National Academy of Design and began a four-year study in New York City. Porter taught art lessons to support himself through school, then completed his studies in 1873 and opened a small studio in New York City. In 1878, upon returning to Connecticut, Porter found the familiar landscape of New England altered by industrialization. Soon after, he left for Paris, France, where he continued his training and spent time painting in the French countryside. Branching away from his still lifes, Porter began to explore the landscape genre and incorporate elements of Impressionism into his work. In 1884, Porter moved to Hartford, Connecticut, where he introduced his impressionist-inspired new work, which defied the “established aesthetics” of the day. Porter returned to his hometown Rockville, Connecticut, in 1897, where he continued to work until his death in 1923.

About The Glass House
The Glass House, built between 1949 and 1995 by architect Philip Johnson, is a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation located in New Canaan, CT. The pastoral 49-acre landscape comprises fourteen structures, including the Glass House (1949), and features a permanent collection of 20th-century painting and sculpture, along with temporary exhibitions. The campus serves as a catalyst for the preservation and interpretation of modern architecture, landscape, and art, and a canvas for inspiration and experimentation.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a privately funded nonprofit organization that works to save America’s historic places to enrich our future, reimagining historic sites for the 21st century. The guiding principle of this initiative is that historic sites must be dynamic, relevant, and evolving in order to foster an understanding of history and culture that is critical, sensory, and layered.

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