American Impressionism

Lecture

Hassam Flags on the Waldorf 1916

Hassam Flags on the Waldorf 1916

American Impressionism has been unjustly neglected by European art historians and critics for many years, yet some wonderful paintings full of life, colour and vigour, were produced in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

James McNeil Whistler is an important figure in this story being the first American to establish a reputation in Europe. He was an inspiration to the many American students who came to Paris after the Civil War to study at the Academie Julian and other ateliers. Mary Cassatt was the only American to exhibit at the Impressionist Exhibitions in Paris and was very close to Edgar Degas, while John Singer Sargent, although born in Florence, worked both in Europe and in the United States. He, like Whistler, was an important influence on the younger American Impressionists.

William Merritt Chase - Peonies

William Merritt Chase – Peonies

In 1898 The Ten was established in New York – a group of ten American Impressionists all of whom had studied in Europe and many of whom had met Claude Monet at Giverny and had been deeply influenced by his work. William Merritt Chase is maybe the most outstanding of the group, a brilliant teacher and accomplished painter admired by Whistler and Sargent. Childe Hassam paints wonderful street scenes depicting the drama of modern New York, while his Flag series are a celebration of colour and pattern. Willard Metcalf paints evocative views of New England in the various seasons and is maybe one of the finest painters of snow ever. Robert Reid paints women in interiors often dressed in kimonos and deeply influenced by the Japanese cult of which Whistler was a leader, while Edmund Tarbell paints his family in various settings as does his close friend and fellow teacher in Boston, Frank Benson.

The lecture also looks at the role of Paul Durand-Ruel the dealer who brought French Impressionism to America but also promoted the American followers of Monet. In 1913 a major exhibition of modern European art was held in the Armory in Lexington Avenue New York. The public were shocked by the work of the Cubists and Marcel Duchamp, but collectors were keen to buy and within a few years American Impressionism was beginning to look outdated.

This lectures reveals a subject very little known in this country and is illustrated with striking images which will surprise and delight your audience.

Frank Benson Summer 1909

Frank Benson Summer 1909

Willard Metcalf The Hush of Winter 1911

Willard Metcalf The Hush of Winter 1911