Chet Reneson: An American Classic

  • OLD LYME, Connecticut
  • /
  • May 29, 2012

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Chet Reneson, Trout Fishing, signed lower left, watercolor on paper, 17 1/2" x 27 1/2"
Chet Reneson, The Narrows, signed, watercolor on paper, 11" x 19"
Chet Reneson, Beached for Repairs, signed lower right, watercolor on paper, 14" x 20"

The Cooley Gallery is proud to announce Chet Reneson - An American Classic, an exhibition and sale of recent paintings by one of America's best recognized painters of sporting art. Jeff Cooley, owner of The Cooley Gallery denies that the gallery is going in a new direction, "We're known for what we do. We've been selling historical American paintings for over 25 years but it's good to step out every once in a while and there were too many compelling reasons to have a show of Chet's work to ignore. He has a huge following among outdoor and watercolor enthusiasts and lives not far up in Lyme. Whenever we bump into each other we talk about painting and the outdoors - two topics close to my heart."

Born in Cromwell, Connecticut in 1934, Chet Reneson grew up on the family game farm and learned the value of hard work. When he wasn't helping out with the chores he was drawing pictures of what he saw around him on the farm. This early talent got Chet to the University of Hartford art school and launched an illustration career at Pratt and Whitney and the Audubon Society and The Book of Knowledge.  By the 1960s he was exhibiting his work in galleries in New York.  Since then Chet's paintings have graced the covers of Gray's Sporting Journal and Sports Afield and he has been honored as Artist of the Year by major conservation groups, once by Trout Unlimited and twice by Ducks Unlimited.

Chet lives and paints in Lyme with his fellow artist and wife Penny and their three English setters.  This exhibition represents some of Chet's favorite subjects: fishing, shooting and the Bahamas.  The perceived effortlessness of Chet's brushstrokes comes from years of dedicated work.  Chet imbues his work with the anticipation of a quiet sunrise or a fish break on surface of the water. Some artists shy away from watercolor's demands but Chet is at home with watercolor's immediacy. Traditionally for many painters watercolor was about direct notation, often as a reference for studio oil paintings, or as a less costly alternative to oils. For Reneson, watercolor is the thing. In a continuum of Yankee sporting artists that include Winslow Homer, Frank W. Benson, and Ogden M. Pleissner, Reneson is unusual for his dedication to watercolor alone. Unlike Homer, he doesn't switch to oils when painting a winter scene. He's adept with the cold weather palette of russet, gray and white of A Missed Chance, as he is with a full burst of Bahamian sun.

It would be wrong to say Chet clings to old ways but he is clearly at home in a simpler time when a human's relationship with nature was foremost in everyday living.

Chet Reneson, An American Classic opens at The Cooley Gallery July 7th and runs through August 11th. There will be an opening reception on July 7th from 5 - 8 p.m.

Visitors to the gallery are welcome and encouraged Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. or online anytime at

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