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Arts and Letters

Art Adventures

Year-round On-site

The Arts at Ocean House

Art Adventures & Experiences

Art is a pivotal part of the Ocean House experience. Museum-worthy exhibits, an art exploration for kids, lecture series, seasonal events and more together create a cohesive curated portfolio. Our hotel art experiences have been enjoyed by countless guests and community members throughout the years. We invite you to join in.

The Bemelmans Gallery At Ocean House

The curated Gallery collection, owned by the historic hotel’s proprietors Charles and Deborah Royce, includes original works, architectural commissions, illustrations of product campaigns, and illustrations of the beloved Madeline series. It is the largest permanent, private collection of work by Bemelmans on public display in North America, and showcases select pieces which have never been seen by the public before. The Gallery also features detailed didactics to bring meaning to various pieces in the collection.

Bemelmans Gallery Highlights:

Farewell to the Ritz” (aka Adieu to the Old Ritz series) – These 21 story-telling drawings recount Bemelmans’ personal experiences from life at the Ritz in New York, including employee mentors, his taste for music, and his eventual own car as he became assistant banquet manager. When the hotel closed its doors in 1951, Bemelmans wrote and illustrated his now famous, “Farewell to the Ritz” in commemoration. It was this collection that sparked the Royce’s interest in Bemelmans work, when it was on display in a window at Bergdorf Goodman in NYC.

La Colombe Murals – Bemelmans created these murals for the beloved La Colombe bistro in Paris, which he purchased in 1953. His Fresco mural paintings were done with wet lime plaster, where he re-created life at the Ritz on the walls of his bistro. After La Columbe closed, the murals were removed and stored in a barn outside of Paris. Fortune turned again for the art of Bemelmans when Charles and Deborah Royce flew to Paris, assuring the current owners that they would be lovingly restored and enjoyed by guests from around the world.

Madeline – Illustrations in the Gallery follow the 12 young schoolgirls as they stroll the streets of Paris. Bemelmans captures the city’s parks, gardens and L ‘Arc de Triumph in “One Nice Morning,” and a depiction of young Madeline perched on a Seine River bridge from his book, “Madeline and The Bad Hat.” Also in the Gallery are two tall Madeline paintings, original pieces from the 15 panels Bemelmans created for the children’s dining room aboard Aristotle Onassis’ yacht “Christina O.”

About Ludwig Bemelmans

Ludwig Bemelmans left a lasting impact on modern day culture and children’s literature with his whimsical and witty style. Although he was most widely known for his Madeline series, he was a notable artist and relentless “connoisseur of life,” and he drew with a child’s eye and wrote with the wit of an adult. What few people know is Bemelmans deep connection to hospitality and travel. He was born into a hotel family and began his career in the industry, arriving in New York from his homeland of Austria at 16 and landing a job as a busboy at the Ritz Hotel in New York. He went on to become a banquet manager there, and his drawings and books offer a candid glimpse of the lives of individuals in the hospitality business and experiences in travel and dining. His legend lives on in hospitality through notable establishments like Bemelmans Bar in New York, and now Ocean House in Rhode Island.

Education & Events

For Children: Self-guided “Mortimer Mouse Scavenger Hunt;” children receive a special “prize” for completing the hunt and finding all items.

Private Art Watercolor Lessons: Available one-on-one or small groups for a three-hour session. All art materials are provided; no art experience required. $300/person plus tax & gratuity (must be arranged in advance). Please note: watercolor lessons are designed for adults 18 years of age and older; we kindly ask that children do not join.

Cork & Canvas Events: Special hotel art experience for groups in collaboration with the Ocean House Wine Director and Sommelier where guests are provided with small canvases, brushes and paints to create art while sampling local wine & cheeses.

Galleries & Collections

Galleries: Seasonal exhibitions in the hotel lobby, Members Club Room, Bistro, Harbor Room and Ocean & Harvest Spa.  Now on view: art from Susan Powell Fine Art Gallery of Madison, Connecticut.

The hotel hosts exhibitions of paintings for sale by leading contemporary artists from major galleries in the region, including the Lily Pad Gallery, the Cooley Gallery of Lyme, Jessie Edwards Studio of Block Island, the J. Russell Jinishian collection of marine art, and the Mystic Seaport Rosenfeld collection. Paintings in the gallery shows are available for purchase. Please contact Lisa Szaro,, for information and pricing.

Permanent Collection: Rhode Island art enthusiasts and amateurs alike will be captivated by almost 250 works from the 19th century through the 1990’s adorning the walls. Originals include the French artist SEM, also known as George Goursat (1863-1934), who, in the years before World War I, created caricatures satirizing the beau monde of French high society at the beach resorts, racetracks and grand hotels of Deauville, Monte Carlo, and Paris.

  • Josephine Maynard, The Story of Susan
  • Ludwig Bemelmans, Goodbye to the Ritz series, Madeline series, La Columbe murals
  • Oscar Fabres, Café Society
  • Adolf Dehn, for Vanity Fair
  • Self-portraits of well-known artists and writers collected by Burt Britton in the Club Room
  • Society Ladies (original 19th century watercolors depicting fashion of the time)
  • Jessie Gillespie, Art of the Elegant Silhouette
  • George Goursat (SEM), a series of caricatures satirizing the beau monde
  • James Montgomery Flagg, famous poster and magazine illustrator
  • Garrett Price, original New Yorker covers
  • Konstantin Rudakov and the nightlife in St. Petersburg
  • Lanazin French portraits from 1883 featuring artists, writers and statesmen of the period
  • Howard Chandler Christy
  • John Rea Neill
  • William Wallace Denslow
  • George Edwards
  • China Trade Fish Series

Artisans at Ocean House

Weekend Artists at Ocean House Summer SeriesAward-winning artists from participating art galleries are invited to paint on the OH grounds during select weekends to share their art with guests. Artists discuss how they create their work and display paintings/works for sale at the reception. Past artists have included Harley Bartlett, Neil Hughes, and Susan Stephenson.

Chairman Emeritus of Christie’s Americas, is Advisor on the Arts for Ocean House

About Stephen S. Lash

In his position with Ocean House, he will be leading an art lecture series called, “In Conversation with Steven Lash,” where he will feature a collection of thought-provoking guests.

Lash has served more 40 years at Christies, including his tenure as Chairman, at which time he has been involved with virtually every major historic and record-setting auction at the firm. Mr. Lash serves as acting President and Trustee of the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, and as a Trustee of the Museum of the City of New York and the New York Landmarks Conservancy, where he was Chair for several years. He is current co-Chair of the American Friends of the Israel Museum, for which he served as President for six years. He is on the Board of Stanhope Capital in London, and has served on the Board of the Preservation League of New York State, and the Board of Overseers for and co-Chair of the Maritime Visiting Committee at the Peabody Essex Museum. An avid collector of transatlantic passenger steamship memorabilia, Mr. Lash was the Founder and First President of the Ocean Liner Museum, now part of the South Street Seaport. He holds a B.A. from Yale College, and is a former President of the Association of Yale Alumni of Metropolitan New York. He received an M.B.A. in International Business from Columbia Business School.

Resident Curator & Director of Art Education

About Lisa Szaro

Lisa Szaro joined the Ocean House team in January 2019 as Resident Curator and Director of Art Education. She has a background in fine art gallery exhibitions, installation, and art sales. Prior to Ocean House, she has been on committee and Judge for the Mystic Outdoor Art Festival, Owner/Director Flip Flop Canvas Art Parties, Artistic volunteer for Westerly/Pawcatuck Chamber of Commerce including “Fusion”, “The Whale Trail”, and “Westerly is Rocking”, was a 10 year member of the Artists Cooperative Gallery of Westerly, Owner/Operator of “Above Elite Art Studios”, and set designer and sign painter for “Mystic Pizza” movie. A lifelong artist and Oil Painter, she holds a Bachelor degree from the College of Arts and Sciences at University of Rhode Island, attended Rhode Island School of Design, and received private art instruction from her grandfather, renowned portrait artist Robert Brackman.