defined by Edmund Burke in The Sublime &
the Beautiful (1756) "is for the greater
part, some quality of bodies acting mechanically
upon the human mind by the intervention of the
senses." Although a bit ponderous, it has
captured the substance of this elusive idea.
In science the 'beautiful' is defined as an
'elegant' existence, (having a luminous clarity,
rather than a opaque one,) as in a mathematical
proof, say E=mc2. The sheer lucidity overwhelms,
at least to the very few who can fathom it.
However you define beauty, this quality of acting
mechanically upon the human mind is what I call
'resonance'. And at the risk of revealing a
well-kept secret, my favorite resonance destination
is the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London.
like a citadel on an outcrop of stone overlooking
the US Coast Guard Academy grounds below and
surrounded by a spacious Children's sculpture
park, the recently renovated and tastefully
re-furbished Lyman Allyn is truly a private
gem, perhaps the most intimate museum experience
you will encounter.
visitor arrives to a front circular drive, and
walks up a sweeping marble stairway which fronts
the facade of a stunning Neo-Classical building.
Designed by Charles A. Platt, architect of The
Freer Gallery of Art in Washington DC, (and
the Lyme Art Association Building), the graceful
columned exterior, spacious white-washed interiors,
marble staircases, wrought iron balustrades,
smooth stone and inlaid floors are the setting
for the principal art museum serving southeastern
Connecticut. With a collection of more than
30,000 objects spanning five thousand years
and five continents, there is something for
and eloquence are what sets Lyman Allyn apart.
There is a museum persona that seems to surround
you, filling the galleries, drifting up and
down the stairs, creating such an immediacy
as to allow the art--whatever the medium- to
speak for itself. Anywhere in the museum, there
is an invitation to be present. Entering the
hall foyer the visitor is greeted with utmost
cordiality, offered a brief orientation, and
encouraged to explore the galleries. Tempting
alcoves, small rooms, wide galleries, balcony
landings, where you can visit a work of art
individually, with the most minimal of distance,
an intimacy that is rarely found in any museum.
eloquence of the Lyman Allyn collections in
part comes from a diversity that encompasses
New England roots, British inheritance, and
ocean enterprise. Lyman Allyn was a bold, enterprising
young sailor who created a maritime enterprise,
amassed a great fortune and pursued civic philanthropy
during his entire life. His youngest daughter
Harriet U. Allyn, before her own death in 1926,
had sought a fitting tribute to her beloved
whaling merchant father. In casting about for
memorial, Harriet found solid support from her
Hartford bankers, who fortunately, were also
very active patrons of the arts. From this vision,
the Lyman Allyn Art Museum was purposely established
for the community of southeastern Connecticut
to use, enjoy, and in the true definition of
the word museum, a seat of the muses, to learn
about art h
year, the museum continues to provide a rich
legacy of outreach, in art education, in family
participation, and children's discovery of museum
collections, has been revitalized.
one of the exhibits affords an example of the
'immediacy and eloquence' of the collections.
I always compare a visit to the Lyman Allyn
to opening a cabinet of curiosities and taking
inventory, piece by piece, with close appreciative
are many ways the museum becomes a personal
space, as intimate as any in which you daily
live. Each visit deepens this participation,
this appreciation. The cultural programs offered
throughout the year bring distinguished connoisseurs
to lecture series, and monthly Tuesday programs
by staff give an opportunity to delve further
into the collections.
course I cannot leave Lyman Allyn without paying
a visit to its Library, a wonderful reference
collection housed in a wainscotted room with
tall mullioned windows, large oak tables and
fine ship models under glass. Despite its inactivity
over the past decades, the library still remains
an excellent resource where that hard-to-find
title of a very specialized subject just might
be on the shelf.
cordiality, intimacy, and eloquence. For a very
special museum experience, try Lyman Allyn.
Lyman Allyn Art Museum, 625 Williams Street,
New London, 860.443.2545. Tuesday through Saturday,
10:00 - 5:00 pm and Sunday, 1:00 - 5:00 pm.
(First Sundays each month are free and
offer planned programs for the family.) Directions:
From I 95, exit 83, follow signs to museum.
And for further information visit http://lymanallyn.conncoll.edu.