American Impressionism

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The Ten American Painters (1908): (back row l to r): William Merritt Chase, Frank W. Benson, Edmund Tarbell, Thomas W. Dewing, Joseph DeCamp, (front row l to r): Edward Simmons, Willard Metcalf, Childe Hassam, Julian Alden Weir, Robert Reid. NPS.

American Impressionism (1880 - 1920)

In the late 1800's, American artists studying at home and abroad began developing a style of Impressionism that was similar to their French predecessors. Painting mostly en plein air (out of doors) these artists sought to convey the fleeting effects of sunlight and atmosphere, creating a heightened sense of reality in their work. They often painted landscapes and scenes of leisure, but the real subject they were rendering was the overall sense of light. [1]

The Impressionist movement in the United States was dominated by the painting of Mary Cassatt (1844-1926), William Merritt Chase (1849-1916), Theodore Robinson (1852-1896), J. Alden Weir (1852-1919), John H. Twachtman (1853-1902), Willard Metcalf (1858-1925), Childe Hassam (1859-1935), Frank Benson (1862–1951) and Robert Henri (1865-1929). [2] James Whistler (1834–1903) and John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) also participated in this movement. Frederick Carl Frieseke (1874-1939) was an awarded American impressionist painter that worked in France; settled in Paris and Giverny, was member of the American Giverny art colony (The Decorative Impressionist). American "Impressionists" tended to have more of an academic background than their French counterparts. [3] Margaret and Raymond Horowitz have collected examples in American impressionism painting of the highest quality; they have formed one of the finest groups of American impressionist and realist works in private hands.. [4]

In 1897, Twachtman became a founding member of the Ten American Painters (or "The Ten"), a group of artists who seceded from the Society of American Artists and exhibited together for the next twenty years; [5] the organizing members of this New York and Boston based group were Frederic Child Hassam (1859-1935), Julian Alden Weir (1852-1919), and John Henry Twachtman (1853-1902). They were soon joined by Thomas Dewing (1851-1938), Edward Simmons (1852-1931), Joseph Rodefer De Camp (1858-1923), Willard Metcalf (1858-1925), Frank Benson (1862-1951), Robert Reid (1862-1929), Edmund Tarbell (1862-1938), and upon Twachtman's death, William Merritt Chase (1849-1916) and later by Winslow Homer (1836-1910). [6]

The American Impressionists' focus on familiar subjects and rapid technique left an indelible mark on American painting. [7]

John Singer Sargent, Claude Monet Painting by the Edge of a Wood, 1885.

The Painters

James Whistler

View of Venice, ca. 1878-1880.

James Abbott McNeill Whistler ( Lowell, Massachusetts 1834 - London 1903) was an American painter and printmaker. He achieved notoriety with Symphony No. 1, The White Girl. In 1865 he painted at Trouville with Gustave Courbet, Charles-François Daubigny, and Claude Monet.

Mary Cassatt

Mary Cassatt, Lilacs in a Window, 1880.

Mary Stevenson Cassatt lived from 1844 to 1926. She was an Impressionistic painter, famous for her beautiful portraits of women and children; works with a particular emphasis on the intimate bonds between mothers and children (she used members of her own family as subjects). Cassatt was one of the few American artists active in the XIX century French avant-garde. She lived much of her adult life in France, where she first befriended Edgar Degas and later exhibited among the Impressionists. Mary Stevenson Cassatt.

William Merritt Chase

Landscape, Shinnecock, Long Island, ca. 1896.

William Merritt Chase (1849-1916) was an American impressionist painter, a noted exponent of American Impressionism, best known for his portraits and as a teacher. He was a prolific painter with more than 2000 works, included still lifes, portraits, and landscapes; he worked in all media. One of the largest collection of his paintings is at The Brooklyn Museum of Art. Chase became a member of The Ten American Painters after John Henry Twachtman died and took his place in the group; this cemented his role in American art history.

Theodore Robinson

Theodore Robinson, Self-portrait, ca. 1884-1887.

Theodore Robinson (1852-1896) was an American painter best known for his Impressionist landscapes. In 1876 he left for two years in France, where he studied with Emile-Auguste Carolus-Duran and Jean-Léon Gerôme in Paris... after 1888 he spent most of his time in Giverny working with Claude Monet. [8]

Of all the admiring Americans who frequented Giverny, the Normandy village where Monet (1840-1926) lived and worked, Robinson (1852-96) was perhaps the most worshipful. [9]

Julian Alden Weir

Autumn Days, ca. 1900-1910.

Julian Alden Weir (1852 - 1919) was a leading American tonalist/impressionist painter and member of "The Ten". Julian formally studied art at the National Academy of Design and later matriculated to Les Ecole des Beaux-Arts; he studied under Jean-Leon Gerome. Weir's reputation as a landscape painter and leader of the American Impressionists grew through the 1890s; Weir received multiple awards and acclaims in his last years, among them: honorary degrees from Princeton (1916) and Yale (1917). [10]

John H. Twachtman

John Henry Twachtman, The White Bridge, after 1895.

John Henry Twachtman (1853-1902) was an American Tonalist/Impressionist Painter. He studied under William Merritt Chase, Frank Duveneck, Gustave Boulanger and Jules-Joseph Lefebvre. His style varied widely through his career.

From 1883 to 1885 Twachtman studied at the Académie Julian in Paris and spent the summers painting in Normandy and at Arques-la-Bataille, near Dieppe. During this period his brushwork became more subdued and his palette lightened considerably, a change to which his familiarity with the work of James McNeill Whistler may have contributed. [11]

He was a master of "values" - as much so as Whistler.

Twachtman had a mystical side, he was something of a dreamer, Richard J. Boyle writes in "American Impressionism". [13]

John Singer Sargent

Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose, 1885–1886.

John Singer Sargent (Florence, 1856 - London, 1925) was an American painter, a successful portrait painter. Sargent studied in Italy and Germany, and then in Paris under Emile Auguste Carolus-Duran. He was the most successful portrait painter of his era, as well as a gifted landscape painter and watercolorist. [14]

Sargent spent several summers engaged in Impressionist projects. These were nourished by his contact with Monet, whom he visited several times at Giverny, beginning in early summer 1885, and by the chance to work outdoors during the summers of 1885 and 1886 in the Cotswolds village of Broadway, Worcestershire. [15]

Willard Metcalf

The North Country, 1923.

Willard Leroy Metcalf (1858-1925) was an American Impressionist painter and art teacher. He studied under Gustave Boulanger, Jules-Joseph Lefebvre and George Loring Brown. Metcalf's paintings effectively captured the beauty and serenity of his surroundings and despite his use of the divided brushstrokes and bright palette of the impressionists, his images continued to emphasize three-dimensional form, and fidelity to the natural subject.Metcalf received numerous awards as a mature artist. [16]

From 1883 until 1889 Metcalf lived in France where he studied at the Academie Julian under Gustave Boulanger (1824-1890) and Jules Joseph Lefebvre (1836-1911). He traveled through Brittany and Normandy beginning in 1884, sketching and painting near the villages of Pont-Aven and Grez-su-Loing, and within a few years frequenting Giverny with several American colleagues, including Theodore Robinson. Ibidem

Childe Hassam

French Tea Garden, 1889.

Frederick Childe Hassam (Boston, 1859 – East Hampton, Connecticut, 1935) was an American Impressionist painter. In 1886, he went to Paris to study. Hassam was a prolific artist with more than 3,000 works.

Childe Hassam studied and worked with the impressionists in France. Yet, his subjects are, on the whole, recognizably American... Hassam’s paintings of women and flowers are tender, respectfully distant, loving. His rocky coves and seascapes tend toward bleakness. Hassam understood how sunlight worked behind the scenes, how we humans are very small inside nature. His sunbaked wildflowers seem to ripple underwater. [17]

Frank Benson

Sunlight, 1909.

Frank Weston Benson (1862–1951) was an American Impressionist painter, lithographer and etcher; member of The Ten. He is best known for his impressionist En plein air paintings. In 1883, Benson enrolled at the Académie Julian in Paris where artists such as Bouguereau, Lefebvre, Constant, Doucet and Boulanger taught students from all over Europe and America... In 1890, Benson won the Hallgarten Prize at the National Academy in New York. It was the first of a long series of awards, that earning for him the sobriquet “America’s Most Medalled Painter.” [18]

“I follow the light; where it comes from, where it goes.”

Robert Henri

Robert Henri, Girl Seated by the Sea, 1893.

Robert Henri (1865-1929) was an American painter and teacher; an organizer of the group known as "The Eight". He began his career painting lucrative society portraits. Henri was a prolific artist, best known as a portrait and figure painter. He made portraits of children, Irish, Indian, Spanish, Chinese, simple people, workmen and peasants seen as colorful characters or eccentrics. [19]

In 1888, he traveled to Paris to study at the Académie Julian, under Adolphe William Bouguereau, and came to admire greatly the work of Jean-François Millet, and embraced Impressionism. [20]

He gradually began to reject the genteel traditions of academic painting and impressionism, and turned his attention to urban realist subjects executed in a bold, painterly style. [21]

See also

Edmund Charles Tarbell, Three Sisters - A Study in June Sunlight, 1890.
Edmund Charles Tarbell, Mother and Child in a Boat, 1892.
Robert Reid, In the Flower Garden, ca. 1900.

External links

Frederick Carl Frieseke, Apple Blossoms, 1924.

Frederick Carl Frieseke, Hollyhocks, ca. 1912-1913.