Editor's note: The following essay, with notes, was rekeyed and reprinted on May 16, 2002 in Resource Library Magazine with permission of the author and Worcester Art Museum. The essay was previously published in the 88-page illustrated 1997 exhibition catalogue titled American Impressionism: Paintings of Promise, ISBN 0-7649--0359-4. Images accompanying the text in the exhibition catalogue were not reproduced with this reprinting. If you have questions or comments regarding the essay, or if you have interest in obtaining a copy of the exhibition catalogue containing the essay, please contact the Worcester Art Museum directly through either this phone number or web address:


American Impressionism: Paintings of Promise

by David R. Brigham




1. The expression "poems in pigments" is taken from a newspaper review of an exhibition by The Ten, "In the World of Art," The World [New York], April 26, 1903, p. 10. Quoted in William H. Gerdts, "The Ten: A Critical Anthology," in Ten American Painters, exh. cat. (New York: Spanierman Gallery, 1990), 24. Although the critic was referring specifically to the paintings of John Twachtman, many similar observations were written about works by other American Impressionists.

2. Charles H. Caffin, "The Art of Edmund C. Tarbell," Harper's Monthly Magazine 117, no. 697 (June 1908): 66.

3. James B. Townsend. "Annual Exhibition of the Ten," American Art News 6, no. 23 (March 21, 1908): 4.

4. Caffin, "The Art of Edmund C. Tarbell": 74.

5. Ibid.

6. William H. Downcs, "The Spontaneous Gaiety of Frank W. Benson's Work," Arts and Decoration 1, no. 5 (March 1911): 196.

7. Lois Marie Fink, American Art at the Nineteenth-Century Paris Salons (Washington, D.C.: National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution; Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1990): 136, 313-409.

8. Hans Huth, "Impressionism Comes to America," Gazette des Beaux-Arts ser. 6, vol. 29 (April 1946): 225-52.

9. "Private View at Art Museum: Summer Exhibit of Oils Seen by 200 Ticket Holders," Worcester Daily Telegram, May 30, 1902, p. 5.

10. William H. Gerdts, "The Ten: A Critical Anthology," in Ten American Painters, 11-13; and Carol Lowrey, "Index to the Exhibitions of the Ten, in ibid., 177.

11. From the Boston Advertiser, 1890. Quoted in Doris A.. Birmingham, "Boston's St, Botolph Club: Home of the Impressionists," Archives of American Art Journal 31, no. 3 (1991): 26.

12. Jeffrey W. Anderson, "The Art Colony at Old Lyme," in Harold Spencer, et al, Connecticut and American Impressionism, exh. cat. (Storrs: William Benton Museum of Art, University of Connecticut, 1980): 116-17.

13. David Park Curry, Childe Hassam: An Island Garden Revisited, exh. cat. (New York and London: Denver Art Museum in association with W. W. Norton, 1990): 21.

14. Charles H. Caffin, "The Art of Frank W. Benson," Harper's Monthly Magazine 119, no. 709 (June 1909): 111-12. It should be noted that there were American Impressionists who did not work from preparatory studies. For instance, Lisa N. Peters, director of research for the John Henry Twachtman catalogue raisonné, notes that "Throughout his career, Twachtman did not create drawings or studies for his work. His practice was to work directly" (letter to the author, October 8, 1996). Bruce W. Chambcrs, director of the Willard Metcalf catalogue raisonné, indicates that this was Metcalf's method as well (conversation with the author).

15. Curry, Childe Hassam, 14, 33.

16. John Wilmerding, "Benson and Maine" and Sheila Dugan, "Frank Benson: Outdoors," in Ira Spanierman et al, Frank W. Benson: The Impressionist Years, exh cat (New York: Spanierman Gallery, 1988), 11-27.

17. "W. H. D." [probably William Howe Downes], "The Fine Arts: Tarbell at Home," Boston Evening Transcript, July 17, 1914, p. 7. Clipping in Tarbell's artist file, Boston Public Library.

18. Cited in Curry, Childe Hassam, 22.

19. Catherine Beach Ely, "Willard L. Metcalf," Art in America 13, no. 6 (October 1925): 336

20. "Art and Artists," .The Globe and Commercial Advertiser [New York], March 19, 1909, p. 6.

21 Harold Spencer, "Reflections on Impressionism, Its Genesis and American Phase," in Spencer et al., Connecticut and American Impressionism, 51.

22. Other similar Twachtman works include: The Waterfall, 1890s, oil on canvas, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Waterfall, 1890s, oil on canvas, Metropolitan Museum of Art; The Waterfall, Blue Brook, c. 1899, oil on canvas, Cincinnati Art Museum; and The Cascade, late 1890s, oil on canvas, private collection.

23..John Singer Sargent to Thomas Fox, April 10, 1917, from Brickell Point, Miami. Letter in Boston Athenaeum. Quoted in Trevor J. Fairbrother, catalogue entry in Susan E. Strickler et al., American Traditions in Watercolor: The Worcester Art Museum Collection, exh. cat. (New York: Abbeville Press for the Worcester Art Museum, 1987), 132.

24. A. E. Ives, "Talks with Artists: Mr. Childe Hassam on Painting Street Scenes," Art Amateur 27, no. 5 (October 1892): 117.

25. Ibid.: 116.

26. For another discussion of this series, see Ulrich W. Hiesinger, Childe Hassam: American Impressionist, exh.cat. (Munich and New York: Prestel-Verlag, 1994), 145-48.

27. Childe Hassam to John W. Beatty, March 8, 1920. Quoted in Gail Stavitsky, "Childe Hassam and the Carnegie Institute: A Correspondence," Archives of the American Art Journal 22, no. 3 (1982): 6. Hassam was writing about his painting Tanagra, 1918, oil on canvas, National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Washington, D.C.

28. See, for instance, J, Nilsen Laurvik, "The Fine Arts. The Ten American Painters," Boston Evening Transcript, March 23, 1911, p, 3; "Art at Home and Abroad, Fourteenth Annual Exhibition of the Ten American Painters at the Montross Galleries," The New York Times, March 26, 1911, magazine section, part 5, p. 15; and R. W. Macbeth, "Secessionists Exhibit in New York.'The Ten' and 'The Twelve' Showing Pictures of Varying Degrees of Interest -- Some Present American Tendencies," Christian Science Monitor, April 1, 1911, p. 15. On the purchase, see Childe Hassam to Philip Gentner, June 27, 1911; September 1, 1911; and October 17, 1911, Letters in Worcester Art Museum curatorial files.

29. "Nine of the Band Exhibit at the Montross Galleries," The Evening Post [New York], March 20. 1911, p. 9.

30. Untitled notice of Hassam's The New York Window, in Art and Progress 4, no. 4 (February 1913), unnumbered preliminary page.

31. Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, "The Hysterical Woman: Sex Roles and Conflict in Nineteenth-Century America," in Disorderly Conduct: Visions of Gender in Victorian America (New York and Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1985), 197-216.

32. William Hosley, The Japan Idea: Art and Life in Victorian America, exh. cat, (Hartford, Conn,: Wadsworth Athenaeum, 1990), 30, 32.

33. Ibid,, 45-46.

34. Hosley describes the American perception of "a living medieval culture" in The Japan Idea, 49.

35. Ibid., 31.

36. T. J. Jackson Lcars, No Place of Grace: Antimodernism and the Transformation of American Culture, 1880-1920 (New York: Pantheon, 1981), 85.

37. Ibid., 85.

38. Ibid., 229.

39. Stephen F. Eisenman et al., Nineteenth Century Art: A Critical History (London and New York: Thames and Hudson, 1994), 296.

40. Lears, No Place of Grace, 186, 188; Susan E. Strickler, "Building a Collection," in Worcester Art Museum: Collected Works (Worcester, Mass,: Worcester Art: Museum, 1994), 8; and Elizabeth de Sabato Swinton, "John Chandler Bancroft: Portrait of a Collector," Worcester Art Museum Journal 6 (1982-83): 53-63.

41. Freer made a fortune in railroads (Lears, No Place of Grace, 190); Ross was a Harvard design professor (idem, 94); Bigelow, a member of a prominent Boston family, was trained in medicine (idem, 226-27); and Bancroft was the son of the noted historian George Bancroft (Swinton, "John Chandler Bancroft": 53).

42. Lears, No Place of Grace, 188.

43. Linda Merrill, "Whistler and the 'Lange Lijzen,'" The Burlington Magazine 136, no, 1099 (October 1994): 688.

44. Basil Gray, "'Japonisme' and Whistler," The Burlington Magazine 107, no. 747 (June 1965): 324.

45. Merrill, "Whistler and the 'Lange Lijzen,'": 683, 688.

46. Ibid.: 683. Merrill sees this painting as a key step in "Whistler's ambition to reform his art in the image of porcelain -- to live up, as it were, to his own blue china."

47. "Second Tea for Fair Women,'" The Boston Post, March 7, 1902, p. 3.

48. The periodical International Studio reminded its readers of the connection between tea and its Eastern origins, while reporting on an "instance of Japanese interior decoration applied to American uses," for example, in "The Japanese Tea-Room of the Auditorium Annex, Chicago," International Studio 33, no. 129 (November 1907): xxxiv·-xxxviii.

49. "Second Tea for Fair Women,'" p. 3; and "Society at Tea for Fair Women," The Boston Post, March 11, 1902, p. 5.

50. Yeto is identified in a letter from Susan Richardson, archivist of the Historical Society of the Town of Greenwich, Connecticut, to Jill J. Burns, Worcester Art Museum, November 18, 1996.

51. Trevor Fairbrother identifies this table as one of Tarbell's possessions in "Edmund C. Tarbell's Paintings of Interiors," The Magazine Antiques 131, no, I (January 1987): 232-33.

52. Chicago Tribune, November 21, 1909. Clipping in the Art Institute of Chicago.

53. For Weir's interest in Japanese art, see Doreen Bolger Burke, J. Alden Weir: An American Impressionist (Newark: University of Delaware Press; New York, London, and Toronto: Cornwall Books, 1983), 202-16.

54. 1 thank Elizabeth de Sabato Swinton for sharing her expertise in identifying the possible origins of the still-life objects depicted by J. Alden Weir and Frank W. Benson in the paintings discussed here.

55. F. W. Coburn, "Mr. Benson's Birds," The Boston Herald,, November 16, 1913, p. 28.

56. Hosley, The Japan Idea, 30-31.

57. Caffin, "The Art of Frank W. Benson": 106.

58. John M. Murrin et al,, Liberty, Equality, Power: A History of the American People (Fort Worth, Tex,: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1996), 638.

59. Mabel Newcomer, A Century of Higher Education for American Women (New York: Harper and Row, 1959), cited in ibid., 663.

60. Martha Banta, Imaging American Women: Idea and Ideals in Cultural History (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987), 45-91.

61. David Lloyd, "The Exhibition of the Ten American Painters," International Studio 31, no. 123 (May 1907): xciv; and "Ten American Painters," New York Sun, March 22, 1907. p. 8.

62. Natalie Thayer Hemenway, Mostly Horses by Me (privately printed, no date), documents her love of horses and recalls her trip to Wyoming.

63. Dorothy Lincoln's sitting is documented in a diary that remains in the possession of her family. Natalie Thayer's sitting is recorded in a letter from Benson to his daughter Eleanor, August 24, [1917,] in the Frank W. Benson papers, Peabody Essex Museum: "While mother was away I was terribly homesick but Dr. Woodward came along & ordered a portrait of his little girl (out of doors) & I began then to enjoy everything better. Then Polly asked me to paint: a head of Natalie the day they got back &. now I'm glad to get an hour to ride or go fishing."

64. "The Fine Arts, Mr. Benson's Prize Picture:" Boston Evening Transcript, April 9, 1908, p, 11.

65. Gertrud Schiller, Iconography of Christian Art, 2 vols., trans. Janet Seligman (Greenwich, Conn,: New York Graphic Society, 1971), vol. I, 53.

66. "The Fine Arts, Recent Paintings by Mr. Benson," Boston Evening Transcript, October 1, 1908, p, 9.

67. Caffin, "The Art of Frank W. Benson": 107.

68. "Private View at Art Museum," p. 5.

69. "Art Exhibitions. The Ten American Painters," New York Tribune, March 27, 1901, p. 6.

70. Hale quoted in Caffin. "The Art of Edmund C. Tarbell": 72.

71. Natalie Spassky et al., A Catalogue of Artists Born Between 1816 and 1845, vol. 2 of American Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art in association with Princeton University Press, 1980-94), 648.

72. "The Fine Arts. Miss Mary Cassatt's Exhibition," Boston Evening Transcript, February 9, 1909, p. 11.

73. "As to Women in Art" unidentified clipping, April 21, 1924, in Cassatt's artist file, Boston Public Library; and "Mary Cassatt: New Light on 'A Painter of Children and Mothers' in a Book Just Published in France," Boston Evening Transcript, January 22, 1914, p. 11. This is an unsigned book review; the quote is from a book by the critic Royal Cortissoz.

74. Nancy Mowll Mathews, Mary Cassatt, (New York: Harry N. Abrams in association with the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 1987), 149.

75. "Ten Painters Hold Annual Exhibition," New York Herald, March 18, 1911, p. 9.


Return to page one


About the author

Dr. David R. Brigham earned his Ph.D. in American civilization in 1992 from the University of Pennsylvania with the dissertation, "A World in Miniature: Charles Willson Peale's Philadelphia Museum and Its Audience, 1786-1827." He holds an M.A. in American civilization/museum studies, also from the University of Pennsylvania, and bachelor's degrees in English and accounting from the University of Connecticut. He has published several books and catalogues, including the CD-ROM, Early American Art: A Window on History and Culture, and numerous scholarly articles and essays.

Brigham has worked at the Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, Massachusetts, since 1996, currently serving as director of collections and exhibitions. He organized there exhibitions on Hudson River School landscapes, American Impressionism, Winslow Homer, and Paul Revere silver and prints.


Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Worcester Art Museum in Resource Library Magazine.

Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

This page was originally published in 2002 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.

Copyright 2012 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.