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Essex Art Association

Early History of the EAA

After World War II, Essex residents were eager to get back to normal living and rebuild the community. Part of that task was organizing and establishing the cultural interests of the art community. While nearby towns had active artist groups, Essex was just getting started. Several residents had studied art in New York and Boston while others brought talent from other countries. Some were returning veterans from the Navy, AFS, and the State Guard. What they had in common was their artistic talents, and a desire to promote artistic creativity in Essex.

In 1946 six local artists, E. Gould Chalker (known as Gouldie), Fred Freeman, Henry Kreis, Aldis Browne (known as Brownie), James (Jimmy) Pollock, and Bennett Buck, formed the Essex Art Association. Chalker and Freeman were the moving forces that brought the others together.  They cleaned the barn behind Chalker’s Store on Essex Square and created an exhibit space above the garage. On a summer evening in 1946 the group held their first exhibit which ran throughout the remainder of that summer.

The founding group was very close-knit.  Fred Freeman had his studio next door to Chalker’s Store and Aldis Browne lived on the other side of the Square and eventually rented a room from the Chalker’s. The others lived nearby in Essex.

In 1947 the group incorporated as a non-profit corporation and officially established the Essex Art Association. They acquired and moved into the old school house in Essex Center. EAA has occupied this space ever since.

The early policies stressed service to the artist and to the community.  They encouraged a variety of artwork, sometimes unorthodox, atypical or untraditional.  They supported a broad spectrum of art by a variety of artists.  They encouraged different approaches in art and wanted to avoid the commercialism of commercial galleries. Instead profits were considered donations to EAA.

In the early days, EAA provided exchanges between the Essex gallery and galleries in New York. This brought art connoisseurs from all over and gave the new gallery a prestigious reputation that continues today.

The six incorporators were:

E. Gould Chalker 1910 – 1979, Born in Old Saybrook, CT; Hamilton College, Art Students League, Grand Central School of Art, and studied under Arshile Gorky: Abstract Impressionist

Fred Freeman 1906 – 1988, Born in Boston and raised in Maine; Known as a New York artist who moved to Essex in 1938, he studied with Henry Ranking Poore and Joseph Boston. Realist Illustrator: specialized in paintings, lithographs, drawings, and sketches of WW II destroyers and submarines, and aviation, aeronautics, and space exploration for the U.S. Navy and NASA.

Aldis B. Browne 1907 – 1981, Born Washington, DC; Westminster College, Yale School of Fine Arts; Known for portraits, murals, and landscape painting.

Henry Kreis 1899 – 1963, Born in Essen, Germany. Kreis immigrated to the U.S. in 1933 and studied at the Beaux Arts Institute of Design and later with Paul Manship as a stone cutter. He was a WPA artist during the Depression and was a member of the faculty of the Hartford Art School: Sculptor and medal designer.

Bennett Buck 1900 - 1982, Born in Syracuse, New York; School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; member of the Mystic Art Association: Known for water colors and drypoint (pencil) drawings.

James A. Pollock, brother of painter Jackson Pollock, lived in Essex and worked for the WPA in 1941. He was member of the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts and most noted for his six landscape paintings of local scenes – The Essex Boat Works; House in Killingworth; Country Store; Dam in Connecticut; Farm Scene; and Spring Vista.