Incorporated in 1914, the Lyme Art Association continues the tradition of presenting fine art exhibitions and sales by its artist members in the historic gallery. Exhibitions of Lyme Impressionist paintings began in 1902 and were held every summer in the Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library in Old Lyme until August 6, 1921, when the present Lyme Art Association gallery opened.
American Impressionist painters Gifford Beal, Louis Paul Dessar, Childe Hassam, and Willard L. Metcalf joined with Will Howe Foote, Henry Rankin Poore, Allen B. Talcott, and Carleton Wiggins in the early exhibitions of the Association. The Lyme Art Association gallery was the culmination of seven years of planning by artists Frank Bicknell, William Chadwick, Harry Hoffmann, Wilson Irvine, Lawton Parker, William Robinson, Edward Rook, and Gregory Smith.
The building site was adjacent to Miss Florence Griswold's Late Georgian mansion, today a renowned museum of American Impressionism , where many of the artists gathered each summer season. The land was purchased from Miss Florence in 1917.
The building committee chaired by Lawton Parker, worked with architect Charles A. Platt, designer of the Freer Art Gallery in Washington , D.C. and the Lyman Allyn Museum in New London , CT.
The plans for the gallery called for perfect lighting and architectural compatibility with the other buildings in the New England village of Old Lyme . In its review of the opening exhibition, the New York Times praised the gallery as, "an embodiment of art in harmony with its natural surroundings."
A fourth spacious room, the Goodman Gallery, was built in 1938. It was donated by Mrs. William Owen Goodman in memory of her husband, a Chicago art patron and the Association's third president. In 1986 the building was named to the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Historic District of Old Lyme, Connecticut.
In addition to the artist members' Annual Summer Exhibition, in 1925 the Art Association held the first "Water Color" show. The season schedule expanded again seven years later with the first Annual Autumn Members' Exhibition. In 1938, the Annual Summer Exhibition added water colors, pastels, prints, and drawings to a display previously restricted to paintings and sculpture. The first Annual Associate Members' Exhibition was held in 1992.
The mission of the Lyme Art Association is to advance the cause of representational fine arts by owning, maintaining, and preserving an historic building and galleries in Old Lyme, Connecticut, holding art exhibitions, and conducting educational programs for the benefit of the local community and the general public.
Today the Lyme Art Association hosts a diverse schedule of juried art exhibitions with all works for sale by its Member Artists. Further, in keeping with the Association's commitment to provide a showcase for the exhibition and sale of fine art, the spacious gallery is offered periodically as a gallery for the works of some of the region's finest and newest representational artists.