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Impressionism Abroad:
Boston and French Painting

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An exhibition of paintings by French and American masters, Impressionism Abroad: Boston and French Painting, explores the influence of the French Impressionist painters on Boston’s artists and collectors during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The exhibition, drawn largely from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (USA), will tell the story of Boston’s early recognition of and enthusiasm for the work of the Impressionists and the French Barbizon School, in particular their landscape painting. Work by American artists such as William Morris Hunt, John Singer Sargent and Childe Hassam will be placed alongside paintings by Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro as well as earlier French painters such as Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot and Jean-François Millet, who they also admired and emulated.

Boston artists such as Hunt and J. Foxcroft Cole were drawn to the new movements in painting which emerged in Europe in the second half of the nineteenth century. They studied with leading French artists and established friendships with their French contemporaries, adopting many of their new subjects and techniques. Several of them worked in France – some at Giverny with Monet. They adopted the Impressionists’ bright palette and broken brushwork, becoming the earliest American painters to embrace the new style. On their return to the USA, they modified it to create interpretations of local scenes, thus encouraging its acceptance in the United States. Sargent’s Monet Painting by the Edge of a Wood (1885), included in the exhibition, demonstrates the direct influence of the French painter on his American friend’s technique and approach to subject matter. Unlike many of their French exemplars, these American painters became members of the art establishment, advising local collectors, encouraging the acquisition of Impressionist works and making Boston one of the most vital and forward-looking centres of art.

Collectors such as Henry Sayles and Henry Clay Angell, who had long had an eye for modest pastoral scenes, were open to suggestions from their artist friends and began to enhance their collections with more avant-garde works by the French Impressionists. By 1915, the collector Arthur Brewster Emmons had acquired no less than twenty-six works by Claude Monet. The artist and collector, Lilla Cabot Perry, who is represented in the exhibition by her own work and by paintings that she collected, illustrates the ways in which the Impressionists affected both artists and collectors. Displaying some 57 works, further highlights of this exhibition will include twelve paintings by Monet such as Grand Canal, Venice (1908), Edgar Degas’s Race Horses at Longchamp (1871), William Morris Hunt’s Gloucester Harbour (c. 1877), Frank Weston Benson’s Calm Morning (1904) and Childe Hassam’s Grand Prix Day (1887).

Boston’s reputation for having a discerning appreciation of Impressionist painting was recognised from an early stage. By 1892, there were enough Monets in local hands for a solo exhibition of the French painter’s work to be held at the St Botolph Club, an event that was followed by four other Monet exhibitions in Boston by 1911. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, was the first American museum to own a Monet, and local collectors went on further to enrich the collection with such avant-garde masterpieces as Edouard Manet’s Street Singer (c. 1862), Monet’s Antibes seen from the Plateau Notre-Dame (1875), Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Grand Canal, Venice (1881) and Louis Eugène Boudin’s The Inlet at Berck (Pas-de-Calais) (1882) alongside works by their American counterparts.


Exhibition Catalouge    
A richly illustrated catalogue, published by RA Publications, explores the history of the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Erica Hirshler, Senior Curator at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston has selected the exhibition and provided the lead essay for the catalogue.



This exhibition is organised by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Arts, London, and is based on an exhibition organised for the Nagoya/Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

Catalogue Index of Sargent's Paintings
(that I know of) 

Dennis Miller Bunker painting at Calcot

Helen Sears

Fishing for Oysters at Cancale

Claude Monet Painting on the Edge of a Wood

Special thanks to Philip Resheph, of London, a friend of the JSS Gallery, for sending me the the information on this exhibition.


By:  Natasha Wallace
Copyright 1998-2005 all rights reserved
Created 8/9/2005