This is the only mid-Atlantic venue for the exhibition. Drawn from the Metropolitans distinguished collection, the exhibition highlights the vibrant interpretations of modern life in Europe and the United States created by American artists who embraced French Impressionism. The exhibition is organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Federation of Arts.
American Impressionists Abroad and at Home showcases 39 canvases by 28 artists, including two pioneers of American Impressionism who caught the spirit of the new French painting during the 1870s: Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) and John Singer Sargent (1856 -1925). Whereas most of the future American Impressionists intended to return to the United States after studying abroad, Cassatt chose to settle in Paris in June 1874. Sargent, born in Florence to expatriate American parents and 18 years old when he arrived in Paris with his family in May 1874, seems never to have envisioned a residence other than Europe. Among the other leading American Impressionists featured are William Merritt Chase (1849-1916), one of the founders of the American Federation of Arts, Childe Hassam (1859-1935), and a group of Americans who worked at various times in Claude Monets home village, Giverny: Theodore Robinson (1852-1896), Willard L. Metcalf (1858-1925), and Frederick C. Frieseke (1874-1939).
Beginning in the mid-1860s, hundreds of aspiring American painters were attracted to Paris by the quality of its art schools and by the fact that the city had become an artistic epicenter. Although the main purpose of their studies in Paris was the mastery of academic principles, some students became aware of the avant-garde approach of the French Impressionists, who made their debut in a private group exhibition in the spring of 1874. Rejecting academic principles, the French Impressionists espoused familiar modern subjects and rapid plein air painting. As awareness and appreciation of Impressionism grew among American collectors and critics by the mid-1880s, American painters increasingly experimented in the new style. In the 1890s the American Impressionism reached its height.
In describing the artists in the exhibition, guest curator H. Barbara Weinberg, The Alice Pratt Brown Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture at the Metropolitan, remarks, While some American painters responded to Impressionism only superficially, the most interesting of them grasped its essence, especially the conviction that their works should encode modern life in modern artistic terms. Weinberg and co-curator Susan G. Larkin, former Chester Dale Fellow and research associate at the Metropolitan, arranged the works into four thematic groups to suggest some of the ways in which the American Impressionists abroad and at home - and at home abroad - responded to aspects of the city and suburbs, the countryside, professional life, and the domestic scene during a dynamic period in history.
Included in the first section of the exhibition, American Impressionists in the City and Suburbs, is Hassams Broadway and 42nd Street (1902), which typifies the appeal to the American Impressionists of modern subjects such as burgeoning urban neighborhoods. Seeking genuine counterparts of French Impressionist themes, the American Impressionists also chose sites that had local or national significance or that manifested national progress. Philip L. Hales (1865-1931) Niagara Falls (1902), for instance, portrays the new Upper Steel Arch Bridge and the Niagara Falls Power Plant, suggesting that modern technology can coexist with an impressive natural setting.
In response to the growing challenges of modern life, there arose a yearning for a simpler, quieter past, as is illustrated in the section, American Impressionists in the Countryside. Included are nostalgic rural scenes, such as Robinsons The Old Mill (Vieux moulin) (c. 1892), which portrays a mill at Giverny, forty miles northwest of Paris, where Monet had settled in 1883 and Robinson worked for many years. Another painting shows a view of a remote fishing village portrayed in Walter Elmer Schofields (1867-1944) Sand Dunes near Lelant, Cornwall, England (1905). Depictions of artists residences and neighborhoods were also common subjects. Gifford Beals (1879-1956) The Albany Boat (1915) is a scene of excursionists on the Hudson River which flowed past his house in Newburgh, N.Y., and Edward Willis Redfields (1869-1965) Overlooking the Valley (1911) is one of many canvases in which the artist represented the landscape near his Pennsylvania home.
Another important focus of these artists was their familiar workplaces, which inspired images of their studios and portraits of their students, teachers and friends. Featured in the section American Impressionists in Their Professional Environments is Horseneck Falls (c.1889-1890), a glimpse by John Henry Twachtman (1853-1902) of a brook near his Connecticut farm, and Venus in Atrium (1908or 1910) by William de Leftwich Dodge (1867-1935), which depicts a sculpture of a nude female torso in his Long Island studio.
Some of the most famous American Impressionist depictions of domestic life were by Cassatt, who is appreciated most for her sensitive renderings of mothers and children. Spring: Margot Standing in a Garden (Fillette dans un jardin) (1900) is a highlight of the final section, American Impressionists Paint Domestic Life. Also included is Chases For the Little One (c. 1896), which portrays the artists wife sewing in their summerhouse in the Shinnecock area of Southampton, Long Island.
The American Impressionists belonged to several generations, led varied professional lives and were among the most thoroughly schooled, widely traveled, cosmopolitan painters in the history of our nations art. Their paintings are not only enchanting records of light and color, but decipherable reflections of their creators experiences abroad and at home.
American Impressionism remains one of the most beloved movements in American art.
Spring: Margot Standing in a Garden
dans un jardin), 1900
Oil on canvas,
26 3/4 x 22 3/4
Bequest of Ruth Alms
Courtesy of The
American Federation of Arts
Metropolitan Museum of Art