It was love at first sight when, on a cold January day in 1882, renowned Impressionist painter Julian Alden Weir watched as 17-year-old Anna Dwight Baker walked into his Manhattan art studio.
Anna was dressed in black from head to toe and still mourning the death of her father. But her instant effect on Weir so surprised the 30-year-old bachelor that he was rendered speechless. It was likely the only time in his life Weir was short on words, as his prodigious love letters to Anna left a treasure trove of information about their romance.
Weir might have been even more shocked if he had known his pending love affair, engagement and marriage to Anna would be the subject of an annual tour 120 years later at a national historic site named for him in Wilton.
On Sunday from 1 to 2 p.m., Wilton scholar, poet and park volunteer Bonnie Tremante will lead an hourlong "Discover the Nature of Love" at Weir Farm National Historic Site, 735 Nod Hill Road. During the tour, Tremante will describe the couple's intense love affair, both with each other and with art and nature. Tremante is as a former Wilton English teacher and current park volunteer who spent years painstakingly transcribing the letters, which are extremely difficult to read.
In one letter dated April 30, 1882, Weir, writing to Anna in Windham from his New York art studio, bemoans that "Sunday has come and with it a lovely spring day. How I would love to be with you. What I would not give to be there to walk with you and breathe the same air and admire the same things. I am trusting soon to see your dear face."
Anna, writing from Windham in a letter dated Oct. 26, 1882, says, "Last night I took quite a little walk, it was such a glorious evening that I could not stay indoors. The moon was near full. If you had only been with me, then it would have been perfect."
The farm, where the couple and their three daughters spent their summers, is the only national historic site in the United States named for a painter.
"Writing letters is a lost art, and it shows the way people communicated back then, said National Park Service Ranger Cassie Werne. This is quite a unique tour. We even have a local couple coming Sunday to celebrate their wedding anniversary by going on the tour."
For more information about the tour, which is free, contact Weir Farm at www.nps.gov/wefa or call 203-834-1896.
Do you write letters of any kind, particularly love letters? Leave a comment below.
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