Lilly Louise Weseloh Maxwell was born on Valentine’s Day, which may have influenced her lifelong love and exuberance for holiday celebrations and dressing up—whether that be in red, white, and blue for Memorial Day or as a fortune teller who read the palms of trick-or-treaters on Halloween.
Originally from Springfield, Ohio, Lil—the daughter of German immigrants—attended Connecticut College, graduating in 1942. She married Ed Maxwell, a local, in 1944 and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Maxwells were an integral part of the Noank and Mystic communities for the better part of sixty years. The committee boat of the local Mystic River Mudhead Sailing Association was rechristened the Eddie Maxwell in Ed’s honor; but Lil had an even wider-reaching legacy thanks to her ubiquitous art classes at the Maxwell Art School, run out of the studio above their home garage. Over the course of fifty years Lil taught hundreds of local children, sometimes up to three generations within a family. MMoA Exhibition Manager Amelia Onorato was one of those children back in the 1990s, and can still recall Mrs. Maxwell’s advice to squint at what you’re looking at, to better see the highlights, shadows, and true colors, and the ever-present mantra: “all rounded objects are rounded at the bottom.”
Lil was a champion of young artists, spearheading the first children’s art classes offered at Mystic Museum of Art (then still the Mystic Art Association), and founding the Young at Art exhibition, which is still the most popular annual show mounted at MMoA. She celebrated the arts, and self-expression, as can be seen in this tribute to her during the year in which she would have turned 100. Lil’s own art was provocative, whimsical, and often humorous. She constantly experimented with new techniques and surprising innovations, working primarily in acrylics, collage, and assemblage.
This retrospective exhibition was only made possible through the support of Lil’s children, who graciously loaned the majority of these pieces to MMoA.