Posts Tagged ‘American Impressionism’

This post comes to us from Gina Ciralli, Curatorial Intern.

Church at Old Lyme, 1905. Frederick Childe Hassam (1859-1935). Oil on canvas, 35 1/2 x 32 1/4 in. Abright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, NY.

“What he loved best were the pastures of Southern New England in the later autumn after the deciduous trees had shed their leaves and great white oaks and graceful birches stood singly or in groups on gently rolling meadows or moorlands with here and there a glacial boulder or granite ledge out-cropping above the soil.” – Artist Nelson C. White about his father Henry C. White, 1954

Nelson Holbrook White’s (b. 1932) survey exhibition Scenic Spirit is currently on display at the New Britain Museum of American Art.  Nelson’s grandfather, Henry Cooke White (1861-1952) was an acclaimed American painter and member of one of America’s most distinguished art colonies in Old Lyme, Connecticut.  From Frederick Childe Hassam (1859-1935) to Willard L. Metcalf (1858-1925), the colony comprised upwards of 200 artists during its three decades of creating nature-based scenes in oils and pastels.  Inspired by French artists Claude Monet (1840-1926) and Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), the colony defined American Impressionism by commemorating the tranquil aspects of rural New England life through use of vibrant palettes and broken strokes on wood and canvas.


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This post comes to us from Sara Cotter, Curatorial Intern.

Bust Portrait of Military Officer with Beard, ca. 1860, Robert Walter Weir (1803-1889). Oil on canvas, 27 x 22 in. Brigham Young University Museum of Art.

All three of the Weirs represented in the exhibition, The Weir Family, 1820-1920: Expanding Traditions in American Art (on view in the McKernan Gallery from June 30th until September 30th) had a profound impact on the development of American art education in the 19th century. Robert Walter Weir, John Ferguson Weir and Julian Alden Weir all served as art instructors to the generation of young artists who defined American art in the 19th century and into the 20th, and who established this country’s reputation internationally. Robert, the patriarch of the family, was the head Drawing Instructor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point for forty-two years, John became the first Director of the School of Fine Arts at Yale University, and Julian, armed with his formal training from the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, served as an art instructor at several institutions after returning to America. The Weirs were undoubtedly influenced in their teaching by the unique position between America and Europe that they held in their own painting careers, and by the curious mix of old and new sources they were exposed to during their travels abroad.


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October Landscape, 1923. Charles Webster Hawthorne (1872-1930). Oil on canvas board, 30 1/8 x 24 7/8 in. New Britain Museum of American Art, Gift of Olga H. Knoepke, 1992.37

The understanding of sensation, perception, and what it meant to portray reality changed dramatically throughout the late 19th century, beginning with the Impressionist movement in France. Impressionism prioritized the individual eye over the disembodied subject of the anonymous viewing body. The theory behind the movement was all about offering a unique experience, a temporary moment, and an individual artist’s perspective. Canvases were meant to be direct translations of perceptions experienced in nature. Despite heavy initial resistance from the art establishment, Impressionist art has come to be praised for removing the burdening, dry weight of bourgeois politics in order to experience nature more directly and immediately. One was not to play into hierarchy, but rather to experience unaltered, reaction between artist and environment. Through the direct representation of the artist’s reaction, the Impressionists captured one moment of temporal, specific perception including those of the middle and lower classes of modern France.

What is often forgotten is the fact that French Impressionism, often mistaken for Impressionism at large, incorporated the beliefs, theories, and politics of one group of mostly Parisian men. Impressionism as theory and practice traveled across the Atlantic quite successfully. In the United States, it flourished among budding art colonies including Provincetown, Massachusetts, Old Lyme, Connecticut, and Shinnecock, Long Island. These art-driven townships were popular destinations and subject-settings for American Impressionists, as they boasted brilliant sunshine, luscious landscape, and sea-soaked shores.


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Millstone Point. William Chadwick (1879-1962). Oil on canvas, 24 x 30 in. Collection of Dr. Timothy McLaughlin.

The NBMAA is currently showing American Reflections: The Collection of Dr. Timothy McLaughlin in the Davis Gallery. This private collection is composed of a wide variety of local and regional subject matter. The exhibition is a focused view of Dr. McLaughlin’s collection of landscape paintings from the mid 19th to early 20th century. Following are several highlights of the exhibition.

The artistic heritage of Connecticut is rich and deep. Portraitists and limners earned a living here in colonial times. The nineteenth century saw the advent of history painting and landscape painting. A number of Hudson River School artists came from the state, lived here, or worked here. American Impressionism was embraced very early by painters in the artists’ colonies of Cos Cob and Old Lyme. (more…)

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Chester Harding's Mrs. Samuel Appleton

Mrs. Samuel Appleton (Julia Webster). Chester Harding (1792-1866). Oil on canvas, 49 x 40 7/8 in. New Britain Museum of American Art, John Butler Talcott Foundation, 1972.91.

Are museums:

  1. 1. Places to preserve history,
  2. 2. Places to establish new history, or
  3. 3. Places to encourage creative growth?

Can there be a fourth choice- All of the above?

The New Britain Museum of American Art (NBMAA) is an interesting example that falls into the “All of the above” category. The facilities of the NBMAA include a variety of galleries that tell the story of Art History in America, while allowing contemporary artists to show us what tomorrow’s  textbooks might include. In addition, the museum has two spaces that allow for the artistic exploration and expression of children and adults alike.

On the first floor of the NBMAA’s gallery space, visitors can literally walk through the history of American art. The central hall features the Museum’s illustration collection, while rooms branching off allow the visitor to stroll through galleries highlighting Colonial Portraiture, the Hudson River School, 19th-20th Century Academic and Genre paintings, and American Impressionism. (more…)

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Today, we’ll have a look at the artworks in the American Impressionism Gallery situated on the first floor of the New Britian Museum of American Art.

The Bird Cage, ca. 1910. Frederick Carl Frieseke (1874–1939). Oil on canvas, 32 x 32 in. New Britain Museum of American Art, John Butler Talcott Fund, 1917.02

Beginning with Mary Cassatt (1844-1926), American artists responded with enthusiasm to the paintings of the French Impressionists Claude Monet (1840-1926), Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), and Edgar Degas (1834-1917). Their loose brushwork and informal subjects, coupled with bright primary colors, appealed to Theodore Robinson (1852-1896), Childe Hassam (1859-1935), John Twatchman (1853–1902), Willard Metcalf (1858-1925), and others, whose canvases capture the impression of light and atmosphere. The more sophisticated among them were aware of optical effects and the relationships between complementary colors. While some Americans chose to remain in France, others, like Hassam, returned to New York, and soon, by their example and through their teaching, inspired generations to come. (more…)

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The Dragon Cloud, Old Lyme, 1903. Frederick Childe Hassam (1859-1935). Oil on canvas on board, 15 1/4 x 19 1/4 in. New Britain Museum of American Art, Charles and Elizabeth Buchanan Collection, 1989.26.

Frederick Childe Hassam was born and raised in Dorchester, Massachusetts, but dropped out of high school in his third year. He started to study art seriously in 1877 at the age of 18, and in 1886 moved to Paris to attend the Académie Julian. However, it was not in this academic environment that Hassam first encountered Impressionism. This American Impressionist master was first exposed to Impressionism at various exhibitions in Parisian art galleries. He was deeply influenced by the French Impressionists and quickly began to incorporate their use of broken brushwork, intense colors, and overall light—techniques that he combined with a preference for American subject matter. Soon after his return in 1889, he settled in New York, where he and fellow artists John Twachtman (1853-1902) and J. Alden Weir (1852-1919) organized The Ten. (more…)

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