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Indepth Arts News:

"John Twachtman: An American Impressionist"
1999-10-16 until 2000-01-02
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
Philadelphia, PA, USA United States of America

This major traveling exhibition for which the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts will serve as the only East Coast venue, surveys the career of John Henry Twachtman (1853-1902). One of the most sophisticated and influential of the American Impressionists, Twachtman was closely linked to the French Impressionists, particularly Claude Monet, to whom his work was often compared. Poetic, imaginative, and experimental, Twachtmans shimmering waterside views and wintry landscapes are highly regarded for their advanced design and brilliant color. This retrospective, the first in more than thirty years, explores Twachtmans artistic development through some fifty oils and pastels.

Organized chronologically and thematically by the High Museum of Art, the exhibition will be divided into four sections: the early Venice and New York years; Twachtmans time of study in France and Holland; his mature years in Connecticut; and the late Gloucester, Massachusetts, period.

Early in his career, the Cincinnati, Ohio-born Twachtman employed the dark palette and exotic subject matter associated with the Munich Academy, where he had studied under the direction of the expatriate American artist Frank Duveneck in the late 1870s. (A masterful example of Duvenecks cosmopolitan approach, The Turkish Page, is a centerpiece of the Pennsylvania Academys permanent collection.) By the early eighties, however, Twachtman had lightened his palette and turned to landscape subjects. This shift was largely in response to the tonalist work of James McNeill Whistler and the plein-air approach of the French Impressionists, which Twachtman had encountered in Paris.

In the late 1880s, rural domestic life served as Twachtmans primary subject matter. And by the mid-1890s, his career was fully identified with the Impressionist movement in this country. In 1897, he became a founding member of The Ten American Painters (or The Ten), a group of artists who seceded from New Yorks prestigious Society of American Artists and exhibited together for the next twenty years. Of The Ten, J. Alden Weir, Childe Hassam, Willard Metcalf, and Twachtman were united in their rejection of descriptive art for more subjective, innovative interpretations of nature. Twachtman created some of his boldest works for inclusion in this groups landmark exhibitions.

Significantly, the artists role as one of the leading practitioners of the avant-garde style was acknowledged early on by the Pennsylvania Academy: in 1895 he was awarded a Temple Gold Medal for the best painting in the annual exhibition. Twachtmans works were regularly featured in the institutions annuals from 1893 to 1909, seven years after his premature death. On this occasion, the artists Ten colleague Thomas Wilmer Dewing noted Twachtmans significance by describing him as the most modern spirit...too modern, probably, to be fully recognized or appreciated at present; but his place will be recognized in the future.

The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue, providing the first in-depth, scholarly assessment of Twachtmans career. It is organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta. The exhibition and catalogue are made possible by the Henry Luce Foundation. Generous support is also provided by the National Endowment for the Arts. In Philadelphia, this exhibition is made possible through the generous support of the Womens Committee of PAFA.

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