Nelson Cooke White


Connecticut painter, art historian, and collector, Nelson C. White (1900-1989) was born in Waterford, Connecticut, to artist Henry C. and Grace Holbrook White. He attended the Pomfret School in northeastern Connecticut and graduated from there in 1919. From the age of three, he was surrounded by art and artists and spent time with his parents at the home of Florence Griswold in Old Lyme.

Nelson C. White’s early training as an artists was with his father. During 1920 through 1924, he studied at the National Academy of Design in New York City and attended Yale University for one year. During this time, he continued to study with his father and became acquainted with Dwight Tryon, his father’s mentor. He also met Thomas Dewing, and important American figure painter. It was shortly after that he began to devote himself to landscape and marine painting.

In 1929, he married Aida Rovetti and they established their home in Waterford. The influence of American artists he met with his father was of great value to him. The painters he met at an early age, Child Hassam, Will Howe Foote and Harry Hoffman, among them, were important to his development.

Nelson C. White painting at Block Island cliffs.
Nelson C. White painting at Block Island cliffs.
Winter Sunrise Waterford from postcard Wadsworth Atheneum Coll.
The Basin Sterling Creek Long Island Watercolor 1927
Scallop Dregers. Oil on board 10 x 14 in.
Portrait of Henry C. White II, 1938 Oil on Panel 12 x 16 in.
Greenport oil
Greenport watercolor and gouache
Greenport watercolor and gouache
The Waterfront Greenport LI 20 x 30 in. oil
Waterford in Winter watercolor, 9 x 12 in.
Spring Lanscape oil from postcard
Sailboats. Oil
Peonies c. 1930 12x16 in oil.
Peonies c. 1930 12x16 in oil.
Naples watercolor 8 x 11.5 in. (sight)
Greenport oil on board 10 x 14 in.
Greenport oil on board 10 x 14 in.
The White Plate 16x20 in. oil 1925
The Boatyard, Greenport, LI
Shelter Island Summer Oil on Board 12x16 in.
Portrsit of Catherine Rovetti, 1931 Oil on Panel 16 x 12 in.
Moonlight, oil.
Snow scene VT oil
Nassau Fishing Boats c. 1924 pastel 7 x 11 in. (sight)

All paintings photographed by Ted Hendrickson


He was the author of two biographies: The Life and Art of J. Frank Currier (1936), and Abbott H. Thayer: Painter and Naturalist (1951). White also penned an article on his friend, Thomas Wilmer Dewing (“The Art of Thomas Wilmer Dewing”), which was published in 1929.

In 1961, Nelson White recorded a series of sketches of “Connecticut Characters” for the downeast comedy series, “Bert & I”. Listen here.


During his life, Nelson C. White exhibited widely. His first one-man exhibition was at the Milch Galleries in New York City in 1930.

He first exhibited at Lyme Art Association in 1950.

Meadows Marshes Sea & Sky Catalog, 1993

Additional information

View works by the Whites in the permanent collections of the following museums:
Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT
New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, CT
Florence Griswold Museum, Old Lyme, CT
Lyman Allyn Art Museum, New London, CT

Nelson C. White with striped bass
Nelson C. White with striped bass
The Connecticut Impressionists

It was such a great privilege and delight to interview Nelson C. White for this program on the CT Impressionists in Old Lyme in 1980! In a stunning encapsulation of history, Nelson vividly recalled being at the Florence Griswold House at the turn of the century with his father and fellow eminent American artists. Everyone who knew Nelson loved him. The most charming, insightful and compassionate person to everyone, Nelson was also a great artist and an eminent art historian. I wish I had produced an entire program on him.

N. B. Today we are accustomed to seeing documentaries with amazing modern computer graphic techniques like fade-ins and superimpositions. In fact, the entire mode of video presentation has become so much more relaxed! Please note that this program was shot and recorded “live on tape,” i.e., with no internal edits at all – just conjoined segments.


Nancy R. Savin

The Nancy R. Savin Video Collection
Nancy Savin / The Arts
The Connecticut Impressionists in Old Lyme
Originally broadcast May 15, 1980
Used with permission of Connecticut Public Broadcsting, Inc.
(May 2021)