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"American Impressionists Abroad and at Home: Paintings from the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art "
2001-12-07 until 2003-03-03
Orlando Museum of Art
Orlando, FL, USA United States of America

The Orlando Museum of Art (OMA) presents from December 7, 2001 through March 3, 2002 American Impressionists Abroad and at Home: Paintings from the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, a rich overview of the development of American Impressionism from the late 1880s to the early 20th century. Drawn from the Metropolitanís 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.

American Impressionists Abroad and at Home showcases 39 paintings by 28 artists, including two pioneers of American Impressionism, Mary Cassatt and John Singer Sargent, who caught the spirit of the new French painting during the 1870s. Among the other leading American Impressionists featured are William Merritt Chase, one of the founders of the American Federation of Arts, Childe Hassam and a group of Americans who worked at various times in Claude Monetís home village, Giverny, including Theodore Robinson, Willard L. Metcalf and Frederick C. Frieseke.

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 favored 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 and in the 1890s, American Impressionism reached its peak.

The Exhibition

H. Barbara Weinberg, guest curator and the Alice Pratt Brown curator of American Paintings and Sculpture at the Metropolitan 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 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 Hassamís Broadway and 42nd Street, 1902, which typifies the appeal to the American Impressionists of modern subjects such as developing urban neighborhoods. Seeking genuine counterparts of French Impressionist themes, the American Impressionists also chose sites that had local or national significance or that displayed national progress. Philip L. Haleís 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, American artists turned to the simpler, quieter past, as is illustrated in the section, American Impressionists in the Countryside. Included are nostalgic rural scenes, such as Robinsonís The Old Mill (Vieux moulin), ca. 1892, which portrays a mill at Giverny, 40 miles northwest of Paris, where Monet had settled in 1883 and Robinson worked for many years, and the view of a remote fishing village portrayed in Walter Elmer Schofieldís Sand Dunes near Lelant, Cornwall, England, 1905. Depictions of artistsí residences and neighborhoods were also common subjects. Gifford Bealís The Albany Boat, 1915, is a scene of excursionists on the Hudson River, which flowed past his house in Newburgh, NY, and Edward Willis Redfieldís 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, ca. 1889-1890, a glimpse by John Henry Twachtman of a brook near his Connecticut farm and Venus in Atrium, 1908 or 1910, by William de Leftwich Dodge, 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 Chaseís For the Little One, ca. 1896, which portrays the artistís wife sewing in their summer house in the Shinnecock area of Southhampton, 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 nationís art. Their canvases are not only enchanting records of light and color, but are also reflections of their creatorsí experiences abroad and at home.

Theodore Robinson (1852-1896)
The Old Mill (Vieux Moulin)
ca. 1892
Oil on canvas
18 x 21 7/8 in.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art;
Gift of Mrs. Robert W. Chambers, 1910

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