Henry Art Gallery

University of Washington / Seattle, WA




Following are chapters on aspects of American Impressionism from the 1980 exhibition catalogue titled American Impressionism, by William H. Gerdts and The Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, ISBN 0-935558-00-4, 180 pages, University of Washington Press, University of Washington. The excerpts are chapter 14, titled "Boston and Pennsylvania Impressionists" and chapter 15, titled "Regional Impressionism."

Excerpted from the exhibition catalogue, American Impressionism, by William Gerdts and the Henry Art Gallery. Reprinted with permission of the Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, 2001.


Chapter 14 - Boston and Pennsylvania Impressionists

A number of early 20th-century writers and critics described and analyzed regional distinctions among groups of Impressionist and Impressionist-related American artists. We have already spoken of several art colonies with at least some affinity to the Impressionist mode, artists working in such centers as Cos Cob and Old Lyme, Connecticut. A good many of the leading Impressionists, of course, were based in New York City, some living there and certain ones, such as Childe Hassam, often painting the New York urban scene; others at least kept a studio in New York, exhibited there and taught in art schools in the city.

Boston was another center for Impressionist painting, and it has been pointed out that the organization of The Ten American Painters was made up of artists from New York and Boston. The Boston painters, in fact, represented a more cohesive group than their New York counterparts, both stylistically and in terms of predominant subject matter, but by the early 20th century, the Bostonians' work was compared to and contrasted with not that of their contemporaries in New York City, but to the painters of the Pennsylvania School,

The comparison is an interesting one today, and actually gains in interest from the historical perspective which can be brought to bear upon the two groups now. The critic most involved in presenting this analysis and point of view was the influential writer and very able artist (though not an Impressionist one) Guy Pene Du Bois; the seminal articles on the two groups appeared in Arts and Decoration in July and October, 1915, on the Pennsylvania and the Boston artists respectively.[1] The second of these made clear Du Bois' concern with the validity of their contrast. Other writers such as Sadakichi Hartmann had already noted certain regional characteristics. as had the historian of Boston art of the period, William Howe Downes.[2]

The basic differences are clear enough. The Boston painters were figure artists, the Pennsylvania ones were landscapists, in fact, their very designation indicates this. The contrast is not made between Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, nor between Boston and Philadelphia, but between the urban center, Boston, and the region, Pennsylvania. The Boston painters were viewed as essentially aristocratic in their outlook, the Pennsylvania artists as democratic. The latter were viewed as virile painters, not concerned with aesthetic matters, while the Bostonians were concerned with beauty but were, perhaps. a trifle timid. Both groups were admired, but the Pennsylvania painters more, and they were also seen as "more American." Yet, perhaps because they were a more cohesive group, the Boston school were written about more, as a school and individually, in their own time, and have continued to draw more attention. Their work is better known, and more admired, today.[3]

Any discussion of the Boston School must begin with Edmund Charles Tarbell, for at the time he was acknowledged as the leader.[4] In fact, the others were grouped around him and frequently referred to as "Tarbellites," which is not an unfair appellation, though it naturally applied more completely to some artists than to others. Born in West Groton, Massachusetts, Tarbell began his artistic career working for the Forbes lithography firm in Boston and then began to attend the Boston Museum school under the influential teacher Otto Grundmann, who was trained in Belgium. Like almost all of the other painters discussed in this essay, he went to Paris and studied at the Académie Julian, along with his good friend, contemporary, and fellow Boston Museum student, Frank Benson. He also traveled in Germany and spent a winter in Venice, returning to Boston in 1885.

Tarbell's rise to prominence began soon after he settled back in Boston. He began to teach at the Boston Museum schools in 1889, continuing in a leading role there until 1912, and greatly influencing a whole generation of young Boston artists, including Lillian Westcott Hale and George Hallowell. He was one of the Boston members of The Ten American Painters, and his work was the subject of a one-man show at the prominent and progressive St. Botolph Club in Boston in 1898.

Paintings such as Three Sisters -- A Study in June Sunlight of 1890, In the Orchard of the following year and Mother and Child in a Boat of 1892 are characteristic of Tarbell's early maturity in their depiction of figures in easy social and familiar relationship, solidly drawn, and yet subject to scintillating light broken into a wide spectrum of colors. Tarbell was always comfortable in the manipulation of groups of figures, drawn from the upper classes, often young society women dressed in the latest casual fashion. Sadakichi Hartmann perceptively identified the figures and their environment as akin to the writing of William Dean Howells.[5] The light is often reflected light, and Tarbell's treatment of it and the natural outdoor settings of such pictures descends directly from Sargent through Sargent's influence on Dennis Bunker, the most significant artist and teacher in Boston in the previous decade.

Tarbell's painting during the 1890s was among the most advanced in color and aesthetic of light of any American artist. However, in the early years of the 20th century, beginning about 1903, his work became more conservative, a direction noted by critics, though not with any displeasure. The emphasis upon color vibration, so striking in his earlier pictures, lessened, except for his increasingly fewer outdoor scenes. He focused instead on indoor figural arrangements, sometimes a single young woman reading or crocheting, or groups of young women casually placed. The interiors are inevitably sparsely furnished, but the appointments are elegant and costly -- antique furniture and Oriental pottery. On the walls are old master paintings (or copies of them) much admired in Tarbell's time, and of course by the artist himself, works in great Boston collections such as Mrs. Jack Gardner's, pictures by artists such as Velasquez and Titian.

Tarbell primarily painted women at leisure, reflecting the hermetic existence of society women. They enjoy the beauty of material things, they become part of that environment, and, as Hartmann wrote, they show good taste. Serene and complacent, they are sometimes caught in negligees behind Venetian blinds, reflected in waxed floors. As Du Bois pointed out, they may sew but they do not sew shirts!

In these pictures Tarbell has reverted to a more tonal treatment, less coloristic emphasis, and a greater concern with a filtered atmosphere, in works that might suggest the influence of Whistler in their compositions as well. But the true source for this change, at once radical and yet conservative, is the rediscovery of and interest in the work of Jan Vermeer. This was recognized by Tarbell's champions and much approved. Tarbell was felt to have been inspired by Vermeer, but not to be imitating him or his art. Tarbell's environment was a modern one; he did not paint costume pieces. His color, too, was contemporary, laid on with a full brush rather than utilizing old master glazes, but he was, in the manner of Vermeer, attempting to catch the nuances of light and atmosphere in a total visual effect of the illumination of his interior spaces. Isolated American precedents for Tarbell's aesthetic can be found in such works as J. Alden Weir's Idle Hours of 1888, but the inspiration of Vermeer was direct and overwhelming.

Many of Tarbell's best-known interior scenes were painted circa 1903-08. He also painted a number of delicate and sensitive nudes, the most commented upon being The Venetian Blind of 1907, again, a discreet young woman illuminated by nuanced light passing through drawn blinds. His nudes are portrayed shyly, perhaps even puritanically, turning their back to the spectator, and are carefully, academically rendered, with muted Impressionist overtones. His occasional still lifes also emit a fragrance of loveliness, beautiful flowers placed in elegant containers. Increasingly, in the early years of this century, he turned to portraiture, and even here his sensitivity to light and concern with the nuances of both form and character enabled him to avoid the stereotypical.

The artist most closely identified with Tarbell, and for many good reasons, is Frank Weston Benson.[6] Born in Salem, he was a fellow student with Tarbell at the Museum school in Boston from 1880-83, traveled with Tarbell to Paris and joined the Académie Julian with him, while spending his summers in Brittany. They both returned in 1885, and both began teaching at the Museum's schools in 1889. Nine years later, both also became members of The Ten American Painters. They were paired together in a number of two or more artist exhibitions during their lifetimes, and their work was the subject of a major exhibition at the Boston Museum in 1938, which turned out to be a memorial exhibition for Tarbell.

Benson's and Tarbell's artistic careers did display a good many similarities, but their identification has been greatly overemphasized. Benson, for instance, was also involved in mural painting, providing for the Library of Congress allegories of the three Graces and the four Seasons, symbolized as attractive and healthy young women. More importantly, in their easel painting, there is surprising diversity and even opposite courses. The paintings of single figures in interiors, and of young women, singly or in groups, posed outdoors, are not dissimilar, but the relative development of the two artists is different. Without over-generalizing, one can say that Benson's earlier works, those done at the end of the 19th century, tend to be his more conservative paintings, more solidly structured figures of women, still tonal and often involving dark and neutral tones. The works for which he is best remembered today are his later pictures, done from about 1900 on. These display very attractive girls and young women, usually members of his family, golden haired and in flowing white dresses, portrayed in brilliant sunlight in verdant, colorful landscapes, often silhouetted against bright blue skies and fleecy clouds. Like Tarbell's earlier work, Benson's later pictures are concerned with sunshine, not with landscape. His figures tend to suggest greater activity: healthy and athletic young women, portrayed in very much of a holiday world. This is spontaneous but genteel painting, with nothing introduced that is harsh or ugly.

By the middle of the second decade of the present century, Benson's figure painting had turned back to more solid modeling, and his imagery became more monumental and more concerned with elegance and a sense of wealth. He was painting more portraits of upper-class members of society, many of women with their children, following the mode of 18th-century British aristocratic portraiture. His later excursions into still life painting are lavish both in size and in the richness of the properties depicted, and though concerned with lively brushwork and scintillating light, Benson in these displays is too involved with the materiality of objects to dissolve form Impressionistically. But, by this time, an almost new career had opened up to him, his involvement with sporting subjects, especially duck shooting, both in watercolor and particularly in etching and drypoint, where he achieved great renown. This later career began for Benson in 1912, substituting, as it were, for the teaching career which he renounced, along with Tarbell, after over two decades.

Among the "Tarbellites," the members of the Boston School, Joseph Rodefer De Camp had the most different background.[7] He grew up in Cincinnati and, meeting Duveneck there when the latter had returned from Munich, accompanied him to the Bavarian capital in 1875. He became a member of the "Duveneck Boys" and joined them in Florence and Venice in 1878. When he returned to this country in 1883, however, he settled in Boston; perhaps he chose that city because of Duveneck's previous success there five years earlier.

De Camp began winning his laurels in portraiture, establishing something of a rivalry with Sargent in the late 1880s, when the latter began to seek Boston clients on his return to America. The figure was, as with most of his Boston colleagues, De Camp's major interest. More solidly constructed than those of Benson and Tarbell, they display a sense of refinement and richness, though not without a concern with light and its effects. In pose and costume they are sometimes more consciously decorative, somewhat akin to the work of Robert Reid. His pictures of women silhouetted against light-filled windows are Similar to Hassam's "Window" series of the 1910s. Like most of his fellow figure painters, he also occasionally essayed the nude. De Camp painted pure landscapes, too, particularly early in his post-European career. In some of these, including his best known, The Little Hotel of 1903, the influence of Impressionism is apparent in the soft colors, the liquidity of subject and surface, and the dissolution of form. De Camp, along with Tarbell and Benson, constituted the Boston contingent of The Ten.

The artist of the Boston School who has received the greatest amount of attention and reevaluation of late is William McGregor Paxton.[8] Born in Baltimore, he grew up outside of Boston and studied in the late 1880s at the Cowles School with Dennis Bunker. He went on from Boston to study in Paris with Gérôme, Bunker's own French master. Paxton, however, like many Americans at the time in France, was drawn more to the work of Jules Bastien-Lepage and Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret. When Paxton, in 1893, returned from Paris, his style academically reinforced with his study under Gérôme, he gravitated again to the Cowles School. His teacher, Bunker, was now dead, but instructing there was Joseph De Camp, who was abandoning the Munich manner for the higher key and broader vision of Impressionism. This, together with the example then being set by Tarbell and Benson, and perhaps the knowledge of Bunker's late flowering in his landscape style (under the influence of Sargent and toward an Impressionist outlook) may have influenced the subsequent direction of Paxton's art.

In November of 1904, a fire took place at the Harcourt Building in Boston where Paxton and De Camp had their studios. The loss of both artists' earlier work was enormous, especially for De Camp, but Paxton was then having a show at the St. Botolph Club, so that much of his immediate work was preserved. Perhaps this event, too, prevented him from depending too much upon the more traditional underpinnings which had contributed to his own early accomplishments. In any case, by the early years of the 20th century, Paxton had begun to investigate successfully the effects of light and color in outdoor settings, while continuing to paint more traditionally and conservatively when interpreting the figure, and particularly the commissioned portrait indoors.

Although he made occasional excursions into landscape painting, the figure was preeminently Paxton's subject. Though he painted an occasional and usually very beautiful nude -- including the present Nude of 1915, a beautiful figure bathed in soft and glowing Impressionist light -- his primary subject was the woman in the domestic interior. These paintings divide into several groupings; there are close-up views of women intent on allurement, and the more poetic views of women incorporated into their environment. They are usually lovely women of leisure, at their ease, or servant-women attending to the care of attractive domiciles and precious objects. The harder, more polished surfaces of his paintings -- as compared to those of Tarbell and Benson -- coalesce with the wealth and elegance of the pristine, hermetic interiors in which his subjects reside. Again, Oriental accessories are often included to heighten the interpretation of the elegant woman as a rara avis. Within this fixation on a limited aspect of upper-class life, Paxton's range of color, light and atmosphere is great, from rather sombre and rather austere environments, as in The Yellow Jacket of 1907 -- not unlike similar and quite contemporaneous printings of Tarbell -- to more sumptuous and more colorful ones. Like Tarbell, he was particularly attracted to and influenced by the painting of Vermeer, and his ideas on that great Dutch artist are incorporated into the critical study written by another of the Boston School, Philip Leslie Hale. Perhaps responding to criticism concerning a lack of overall harmoniousness in his pictures of figures and forms with porcelain-like surfaces, many of the paintings of the 1910s, for instance The Front Parlor of 1913, exhibit a softer diffusion of light and atmosphere. His lovely women, often more mature than those of Tarbell and Benson, usually concentrate upon their casual activities -- reading particularly, or knitting, or putting on gloves; their eyes avoid the viewer, and their faces are often in soft half-shadows.

Writers in the early 20th century admired the technique, the clever brushwork, and the good taste of the "Tarbellites," but they deplored the emphasis upon elegant accessories, and the lack of laughter or tears, referring to the paintings as "parlor pictures." Above all, the critics felt the lack of individuality in their work. To so many of the writers, the works of Tarbell, Benson, De Camp and Paxton were only variants, often slight, of a single theme. Usually grouped with these artists in discussions of the time was Philip Leslie Hale though, in fact, Hale's work was quite different and exhibited more breadth than that of the other Boston painters.[9] Hale was the son of a Boston clergyman and a collateral descendant of Nathan Hale. He studied in Paris at the Ècole des Beaux-Arts and at the Académie Julian, and on his return established himself as a master of progressive aesthetic tendencies in Boston, a good friend of his fellows among the Boston School.

Hale's interiors with figures, whether studio scenes or commissioned portraits, exhibit a degree of painterliness and a fairly high key related to Impressionism, but the forms of the figures tend to be rather academically rendered, and a geometric structure is brought to the fore through the architecture of the interior space. But the situation is quite different when Hale moved to the outdoors. In his renderings of figures in gardens, fields and on verandas, Hale revealed himself as the most fully committed of the Boston painters to the tenets of Impressionism, and actually one of the most Impressionist of all American artists. In many of these canvases there is a total dissolution of figure and background in pure sunlight and broken brushwork, without any consideration of real space or form, and often with a dominating, high horizon. There is a preference for the juxtaposition of bright greens and yellows, not unlike some of the canvases of Bunker's last years, but rather than reflected light, Hale's is blazing sunshine, with a real sense of "vibration"; the figure merges into the landscape setting. Though the figure is at the center of Hale's art, there is more concern with the landscape itself than in the work of any of the other Boston Impressionists. Within his oeuvre, Hale displayed a variation from total dissolution to relatively harder and more precise painting closer to that of his Boston colleagues: the two examples in the present show, In the Garden and The Crimson Rumbler, respectively, well illustrate this range, but whether or not this relates to chronological development must await a more thorough study of his highly engaging art. Hale was also an active writer on the contemporary art scene in local newspapers and in the periodicals of his day, often discussing, enthusiastically, the work of his Boston colleagues. He also wrote a number of books on art and art history, his most significant being a study of Vermeer that first appeared in 1913, and was republished in quite different form in 1937, six years after Hale's death.

One of the leading and most sensitive women artists working in Boston in the early 20th century was Philip Hale's wife, Lillian Westcott Hale, some of whose figural compositions are not unlike the mode of the Tarbellites, but perhaps a more significant woman painter was Lilla Cabot Perry of Boston, who studied with Bunker and Robert Vonnoh at the Cowles School before going on to the Academy Colarossi and Académie Julian in Paris.[10] In 1889 she went to Giverny, where she established a warm friendship with Monet and became a great admirer of his work. Earlier that year, in Boston, she had become aware of the Impressionist aesthetic through the paintings of John Breck, who had visited Giverny early and sent back Impressionist pictures to Boston, where they were shown to fellow artists and other friends in Lilla Perry's studio. Now Perry came under the spell of the master directly, and she and her husband, the writer Thomas Sergeant Perry, spent the next ten summers in Giverny, experiences about which she wrote a most enlightening article that was published in 1927.[11]

During the autumn of 1889, after her first summer there, she brought back to Boston a view of Etrétat by Monet -- one of the first of his works seen in that city -- which was admired by few, a notable exception being her
brother-in-law, the artist John La Farge. A few years later, Lilla Perry lectured on Monet at the Boston Art Students Association.

Perry's work done in Giverny is attractive and very much in the Impressionist mode, if not especially original. Predictably, her figure paintings are darker and more solid, reflecting more the training she had received in Boston, and particularly in Paris. In 1898 her husband accepted the chair in English literature at a college in Tokyo, and the Perrys went to Japan, where they lived until 1901; Professor Perry was, in fact, the grand-nephew of Commodore Matthew Perry, who had opened up Japan to the world in 1853,

Lilla Perry was one of the most significant of the American painters who went to Japan in the late 19th century; beginning with Winckworth Allan Gay, the list of such American artists would include John La Farge, Robert Blum and Theodore Wores, During her residence in Japan, Perry painted over eighty pictures of Japanese life and scenery; of all the Americans to work there, Perry's work is the least traditional and is the most indebted to the Impressionist aesthetic, and some of her Japanese scenes are, in color and brushwork, extremely close to Monet. In 1901, the Perrys returned to Boston where she was one of the most active figures in the local art world and a close colleague of Tarbell, Benson, Hale and others. Though she and her husband acquired a second home in Hancock, New Hampshire, in 1903, they continued to make occasional summer visits back to Giverny until about 1909,

There were other Boston painters of ability and note whose works were influenced by Impressionism, or affected by the rediscovered art of Vermeer, that contributed to the dominant Boston aesthetic of the time, artists such as Edward Wilbur Dean Hamilton and William Worcester Churchill. The Boston School aesthetic was also shared by artists from other regions; Charles Courtney Curran was an artist from Kentucky who studied in Cincinnati and then in New York at the Art Students' League until going to Paris in 1888.[12] His early work, done in the late eighties, shows a concern with women in an outdoor environment, solidly drawn figures bathed in a silvery light, These are examples of the "gray movement," discussed by Otto Stark in his article in Modern Art in 1893, works inspired by the painting of the enormously influential Jules Bastien-Lepage. But after Curran returned to this country and settled in New York, he turned to a more colorful palette and more broken tones, though his figures, always of healthy young women and girls, are carefully drawn. He painted a great deal up the Hudson in the art colony which had been established by Edward Lamson Henry at Cragsmoor, near Ellenville, New York, after Henry visited there around 1879, and then built a home in Cragsmoor in 1884. In such an outdoor environment, Curran could position his figures -- appealing American types -- high up, silhouetted against the brilliant blue sky, isolated from all other concerns in unchanging, sun-drenched summertime.

Guy Pene Du Bois, in his two articles of 1915, contrasted the Boston group strongly with that emanating out of the training at the Pennsylvania Academy of The Fine Arts, and which was characterized by a "concise expression of the simplicity of our language and of the prosaic nature of our sight. It is democratic painting -- broad, without subtlety, vigorous in language..." Du Bois did not deny the "Americanness" of the Boston painters; rather he saw them as the aristocrats of American art, the Pennsylvania artists, the democrats. He saw the latter as the first truly national school, without soul and bare of sentiment. Today, their work, lesser known and appreciated than the Boston artists', seems less related to Impressionism; in technique it is more akin to the aesthetic of "The Eight" or the landscapes of George Bellows. But writers like Du Bois saw their approach as beginning with French Impressionism and applied to typical American scenery of tall trees and rolling country, often snowy winter scenes, bare of incident and filled with the clarity of cold, crisp air. The sense of nationality was important (perhaps more to the critics than to the artists themselves) for though Impressionism was undeniably of foreign origin, it was made to serve the American viewpoint and to embody American sentiments.

The leader of the Pennsylvania School was Edward Willis Redfield, who, after studying at the Pennsylvania Academy, went to Paris about 1886 and studied with the great academician William Bouguereau.[13] In Paris, Redfield became friendly with his fellow-Philadelphian Robert Henri, and both came under the influence of the Impressionists. In 1891, Redfield went with Henri to Venice where they became friendly with William Gedney Bunce, the local American expatriate there, who was then, though little remembered today, an influential figure.[14] Redfield returned home, and in I898 acquired a home in Center Bridge, Pennsylvania. which became a focal point of the Pennsylvania School.

Redfield's broad and panoramic landscapes, with the paint applied in long, thick impastos, were viewed by the critics as virile and masculine -- as opposed to the implied " femininity" or stated "timidity" of the work of the Boston artists. There was no antipathy among the artists of the two schools themselves, however; in fact, Redfield and Tarbell were good friends. Redfield's work was likened to the rigorousness of Winslow Homer's but praised for its joyful exuberance. Critics championed him, too, for his sense of locality -- his were specifically "American" landscapes. He was especially a painter of the winter scene, and to Eliot Clark, his painting was the culmination of the tradition of American winter landscapes.[15] He did not paint the urban scene, and seldom painted the figure. Redfield's style and his aesthetic beliefs were perpetuated during his long years of instruction at the Pennsylvania Academy.

In some ways a more interesting, certainly a more sensitive painter, was Daniel Garber, whose painting is just now receiving new appreciation.[16] Garber came from Indiana, and studied with Frank Duveneck in Cincinnati before going to Philadelphia to study with Thomas Anshutz at the Pennsylvania Academy. Some of his earlier landscapes, such us those done in England about 1905, have an almost Whistlerian delicacy about them, and others suggest a relationship to the painting of J. Alden Weir, who taught briefly at the Academy, or perhaps the contemporaneous landscapes of Emil Carlsen, himself influenced by Weir. Many of these are broad, decorative and essentially two dimensional scenes, often depicting the area around Lumberville and New Hope.

Like so many artists discussed here, Garber essentially painted in two quite distinct manners, and, also like the others', they separate into his landscapes and his figure paintings. However, Garber is unique in that his most beautiful landscapes tend to be more solidly constructed, and more precisely drawn; it is the group of his finest figure paintings that revel in color and sunlight. His best-known landscapes are a series of paintings of the quarries at Byram in New Jersey on the Delaware River, done around 1917. The quarries' monumental rock formations fill the canvases; they are depicted with a muted but lyrical colorism, in which Garber has successfully rendered the poetry of a seemingly prosaic subject. The forms are not at all dissolved, but they are seen in splendid light. Garber's concern here is with "glow," the sparkle of the gilded edges of the giant quarry formation seen against the setting sun.

In contrast, his finest figure paintings, if not all of them, are awash with rich, bright color and warm sunlight. Forms are not dissolved, but reflections and transparency -- of glass, fabrics and the like -- are a major concern, and Garber's figures, too, are silhouetted against the bright outdoors. Tanis of 1915, a depiction of his daughter standing in full, bright light, is the best-known of these, but The Orchard Window was another one much admired when shown at the National Academy in 1921. In a number of his works of this period, Garber suggests some relationship with the contemporary "Window" series of Childe Hassam. Garber painted in and around New Hope for many years, and was an important teacher at the Pennsylvania Academy.

Though a year older than Garber, Robert Spencer was a student of the younger man in New Hope in 1909, after having left Nebraska and studying at the National Academy in New York between 1899 and 1901, and subsequently with William Merritt Chase and Robert Henri.[17] He had moved to Philadelphia in 1905, but later settled in New Hope. Spencer's paintings are unique among the Pennsylvania School artists in that they are not primarily landscape scenes but urban ones. His pictures inevitably emphasize large architectural structures, which, though monumental, are never grandiose buildings. Rather, they are invariably factories, mills or tenements: flat, prosaic walls, placed parallel to the picture plane and in front of which often teem a multitude of small figures. Spencer's is a world quite apart from that of his Boston contemporaries; he painted back yards, not front ones. Indeed, sometimes his pictures suggest a concern with social realism, with the lives and even the troubles of the working people. But his interpretation is Impressionist, actually more so than Redfield or most of the Pennsylvania artists. Spencer practiced a uniformly broken, flecked brushwork, and the quality of paint texture was important in his art, establishing an overall patterning which bears some similarity to the painting of Maurice Prendergast, however different is his subject matter.

An artist whose work is often quite close to that of Redfield was Walter Elmer Schofield, who was born in Philadelphia and studied at the Pennsylvania Academy under Anshutz from 1887-90, before going on to the Académie Julian under Bouguereau for about five years.[18] After his French studies, he went on to do much work in England, serving in the British Army during World War I and then establishing a studio in Cornwall after the war, so that he was, essentially, an expatriate. Many of Schofield's subjects are, not surprisingly, European ones, but he exhibited regularly at the Pennsylvania Academy and was associated in the minds of the critics and the public with Redfield and Garber. His work also was likened to that of Winslow Homer in its vigor; he painted out-of-doors in a broad and painterly style, in which the forms themselves seem to move in flowing compositions, often along strong diagonal axes. He preferred winter scenes, or, as critics wrote, winter, water and smoke. Schofield's landscape paintings are often enormous, consistently among the largest of the artists included herein.

Again, as with the Boston group, the interests, the techniques and the expression of the Pennsylvania School were not limited to artists of the area. George Gardner Symons was a significant painter whose work is quite similar to that of Redfield and Schofield particularly; this, in fact, was noted by writers of his time.[19] Symons was born in Chicago, and studied there before going on for further training in Paris, Munich and London. His work, all broadly-painted, expansive landscapes, was also noted for its virility and freedom, and he, too, was a specialist in snow scenes, exploiting the colors of shimmering shadows upon great areas of white. Referred to as an "Optimist in Art," he was considered both an Impressionist and a Realist, a Realist in his training but an Impressionist in his natural expression. Identified with his native city, his work was collected throughout the Midwest, though he lived much of his later life in New York City.


1. Guy Pene Du Bois, "The Pennsylvania Group of Landscape Painters," Arts and Decoration, Vol. 5, no. 9 (July, 1915), 351-54, and "The Boston Group of Painters: An Essay on Nationalism in Art," Arts and Decoration, Vol. 5, no. 12 (October, 1915), 457-60.

2. Hartmann, A History, Vol. 2, 237-39, and William Howe Downes, "Boston Art and Artists," in F. Hopkinson Smith, et al., Essays on American Art and Artists, Chicago, American Art League, 1896, 265-80.

3. See, for instance, Downes, "Boston Art and Artists," and R. H. Ives Gammell, "A Reintroduction to Boston Painters," Classical America, Vol. 3 (1973), 94-104.

4. Surprisingly, there is no monograph on Tarbell although there are many articles about him, including those by Frederick W. Coburn, Kenyon Cox, Philip Leslie Hale, Dora M. Morrell, Homer Saint-Gaudens, and John E. D. Ttrask.

5. Hartmann, A History, Vol. 2, 238. Hartmann writes perceptively on the Boston School, though not without some condescension.

6. Benson has been the subject of numerous articles and studies but some of them deal with his later excursion into printmaking and need not concern us here. Cited in the bibliography are articles by Charles H. Caffin, William Howe Downes, Anna Seaton-Schmidt, and Minna C.Smith.

7. For De Camp, see the articles by Rose V. S. Berry, William Howe Downes, and Arthur Hoeber.

8. See the excellent, detailed study of Paxton by his former pupil, R. H. Ives Gammell, in the exhibition catalogue, William McGregor Paxton, N. A. 1869-1941, Indianapolis Museum of Art, 1978. Also listed in the bibliography are articles by Frederick W. Coburn, Philip Leslie Hale, and Gardner Teall.

9. For Hale, see the several articles by Frederick W. Coburn cited in the bibliography, and the catalogue, Franklin P. Folts, Paintings & Drawings by Leslie Hale (1865-1931) from the Folts Collection, Vose Galleries of Boston, Boston, 1966.

10. See Carolyn Hilman and Jean Nutting Oliver, "Lilla Cabot Perry -- Painter and Poet," American Magazine of Art, Vol. 14, no. 11 (November 1923), 601-04; and the essay by Stuart P. Field in the catalogue Lilla Cabot Perry: A Retrospective Exhibition, Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc. New York City, 1969.

11. Lilla Cabot Perry. "Reminiscences of Claude Monet from 1889 to 1909," American Magazine of Art, Vol. 18, no. 3 (March, 1927) 119-25.

12. The present bibliography lists articles on Curran by Clarence Cook and Homer Saint-Gaudens.

13. Redfield was the subject of articles by Benjamin Orange Flower, J. Nilsen Laurvik, and Frederic Newlin Price, and a number of studies by Charles V. Wheeler; these are cited in the bibliography.

14. For Bunce, see Frederic Fairchild Sherman, "William Gedney Bunce," Art in America, Vol. 14, no. 2 (February, 1926) 80-84; Royal Cortissoz, American Artists, New York, Scribner's, 1923, 126-31; and Charles Dudley Warner, "William Gedney Bunce," Century, Vol. 60, no. 4 (August, 1900), 635.

15. Eliot Clark, "American Painters of Winter Landscape," Scribner's Magazine, Vol. 72, no. 6 (December, 1922) 765-66.

16. See Bayard Breck, "Daniel Garber: A Modern American Master," Art and Life, Vol. 11, no. 9 (March, 1920), 493-97; Henry Pitz, "Daniel Garber," Creative Art, Vol. 2, no. 4 (April, 1928), 252-56; and Gardner Teall, "In True American Spirit, The Art of Daniel Garber," Hearst's International, Vol. 39, no. 6 (June, 1921), 28, 77.

17. See Frederic Newlin Price, "Spencer -- and Romance," International Studio, Vol. 76, no. 310 (March, 1923), 485-91.

18. Two articles on Schofield are C. Lewis Hind, "An American Painter, W. Elmer Schofield," International Studio, Vol. 48, no. 192 (February, 1913), 280-89; and Arthur Hoeber, "W. Elmer Schofield," Arts and Decoration, Vol. 1, no. 12 (October, 1911) 473-75, 492.

19. See the articles by Thomas Shrewsbury Parkhurst, "Gardner Symons, Painter and Philosopher," Fine Arts Journal, Vol. 34. no. 11 (November, 1916), 556-65, and "Little Journeys to the Homes of Great Artists: Gardner Symons," Fine Arts Journal, Vol. 33, no. 4 (October, 1915) 7-9, supplement.


Chapter 15 - Regional Impressionism


By the 1890s, the Impressionist aesthetic had become a popular and dominant one in America, and it had penetrated to many regions and centers in the nation. There would seem little reason to pursue here the many manifestations of Impressionist painting throughout the country, even if local variations of approach or subject might be described. In connection with artistic developments in Indiana, however, and the emergence of The Hoosier School, a significant critical and artistic attitude toward Impressionism can be discerned, one that illuminates the directions that Impressionism was to take and the reasons for its continued popularity. The Indiana painters are here studied and presented not only because they constituted a united group of artists working together but also because their art produced a body of critical reaction and acclaim that enunciated a nationalistic aesthetic attitude; the Hoosier artists were seen as consciously attempting to create an American Impressionism.[1]

The artists of the Hoosier School were Theodore Clement Steele, Otto Stark, William J. Forsyth, John Ottis Adams and Richard Buckner Gruelle; a sixth painter, Samuel G. Richards, died before the group began to move in an Impressionist direction. The activity of the Hoosier School centered in Indianapolis, but, as a group of landscape painters, it was the Indiana countryside that attracted their attention, and their work was seen by a larger public and to greater critical acclaim particularly in Chicago and also in St. Louis.

There are three phases to the art of the Hoosier School: the pre-Impressionist work done by the painters up until approximately 1890; the years of the height of their significance, from circu 1890 until 1907; and the years from 1907 on, when the activity of the School attracted a second generation of painters all working in Indiana's Brown County where the leader of the School, Theodore Steele, lived in his famous "House of the Singing Winds." Steele, as the foremost Indiana artist of his time, is worthy of study in some detail.[2] He came from Waveland, Indiana, and began his professional art career as a portrait painter, though even early on he exhibited some interest in landscape. In 1873, Steele moved to Indianapolis, a much larger center though not one renowned for its art activity. He found there, however, a sincere artistic patron, Herman Lieber, who had come to America from the art center of Düsseldorf in 1852 and settled in Indianapolis the following year. Four years after Steele arrived in Indianapolis, he is said to have studied at the Indiana School of Art, which was founded then by John Love and James Gookins. Love, who was to die at the age of 30 in 1880, was just back from study in France under Gérôme, but he had worked at Barbizon, which was the direction his own art represented; Gookins had studied at Munich. Steele recognized the inadequacy of his own training, and in 1879 began to make plans to go abroad for study; Lieber raised the funds for Steele and his family.

Steele chose to go to Munich rather than Paris. Perhaps Gookins' own previous study there reinforced Steele's decision, and perhaps also the renown of Frank Duveneck's activities in the Bavarian capital, which had attracted so many young American art students from the Midwest. The common Midwestern Germanic heritage and his patron Lieber's own German background certainly were factors, but further reasons were defined years later by Steele's Hoosier colleague William Forsyth, in his Art in Indiana.[.3] Munich was less expensive than Paris. Its Royal Academy was easier of access and it was a more liberal school. Steele studied there with Ludwig Loefftz, so sympathetic to young Americans in Munich, and also with the more traditional Hungarian artist, Julius Benczur. Much of the work Steele painted while in Munich was figural -- he won a prize in 1884 for his Boatman, a strong, strangely backlit, silhouetted image, not at all idealized -- but he also studied landscape painting, working with the American expatriate J. Frank Currier in Schleissheim.

Steele returned to Indianapolis in 1885, setting up an art school there with William Forsyth and joining the Art Association of Indianapolis, which had been formed in 1883 while he was away. Steele divided his own artistic efforts between portraiture and landscape painting. His portraits, such as that of Herman Lieber painted in 1887 or one of his mother from 1891, are strongly modeled, dark pictures, and his first landscapes done on his return, such as his 1885 Pleasant Run, continue the manner of his Schleissheim work. They are dark and dramatic, backlit with an overall grayish atmosphere, pastoral scenes with an emphasis upon scrubby foliage, and are extremely informal. Steele began already to voice nationalistic preferences however; he found more color and more contrast in America than in Germany, preferring the thicker atmospheric haze to the thin whiteness of Bavaria.

In 1886, Steele began to seek a national reputation, sending landscapes and his prize-winning Boatman to the Society of American Artists in New York City. That same year he began to explore the Indiana countryside for suitable subject matter, concentrating on Muscatatuck Valley and the area around Vernon -- not to be confused with Monet's and Robinson's Vernon, near Giverny! About this time he began to abandon the dark underpainting he had previously practiced and the use of the palette knife. While he was to paint portraits throughout his career, he began a commitment to landscape painting, and for a significant reason. He felt that landscape was the modern art form, one that had had comparatively few great masters in the past. Portraiture, he believed, was universal, but landscape expressed a sense of particular place and it was that sense of place that Steele sought.[4]

In 1887, Steele made a trip to the village of Cavendish in Vermont, and his work done there shows a lighter palette, but it was still Barbizon in its pastoral expressivity, still solid and tonal and with a sense of depth. Gradually, however, his work changed, abandoning the Munich and Barbizon manner for one identifiable with Impressionism, and his 1892 September with its light tonality, bright colors, abandonment of the neutral tones, and broken brushwork represented Steele at the Colombian Exposition in 1893.

The recognition and acclaim of Steele and the Hoosier School are inseparably connected with the Chicago Exposition and the rise of a Midwestern cultural expression. That region found its critical proponent in the major writer and novelist, Hamlin Garland, who in his books championed a distinctive Middle Border expression and who sought no less in the art of the period. That search brought Garland to the art exhibit at the Chicago Exposition and to the aesthetic of Impressionism. Garland's famous essay on "Impressionism" which appeared in print in 1894 in Crumbling Idols reflects his impressions of the art seen at Chicago the previous year, and may have been substantially the same as the lecture he presented at the home of Franklin Head in Chicago. In it, Garland praised the dazzling sunlight effects, and the blue and purple shadows of the new landscape art. His analysis of the methodology of the Impressionists was quite perceptive and correct. He identified the new art with French painters of Giverny, with the younger Scandinavian artists and, among the Americans, the artists of Boston: Frank Benson, Edmund Tarbell and particularly the already deceased Dennis Bunker, whose radiantly beautiful New England scenes he especially admired. Garland quoted a painter friend who "had grown out of the gray-black-and-brown method," who found the Barbizon artists too indefinite, too weak and too lifeless. And Garland echoed these sentiments when he found that "the work of a man like Enneking or Steele or Remington, striving to paint native scenes, and succeeding, is of more interest to me than Diaz."[5]

Steele was undoubtedly a new name to Garland then, but he was to become more familiar with Steele's art very soon, as his own involvement with the pictorial arts was to grow appreciably. The great Exposition in Chicago bore witness brilliantly to the rebirth of the Midwestern metropolis after the disastrous fire two decades earlier. But another purpose was to herald the coming of age of the culture of the area, and it is no coincidence that the very important periodical, significantly named Modern Art, began publication the year of the fair, 1893, in Indianapolis; this was the magazine where, in fact, the local artists Steele's and Otto Stark's several essays on Impressionism appeared. Immediately following the Colombian Exposition, the Central Art Association was founded in Chicago, in March of 1894. The Art Association soon had thousands of members from all over the Midwest, published an illustrated monthly journal, Arts for America, sponsored lecture series on all aspects of the pictorial arts, and held art exhibitions which traveled and where sales were actively promoted. Though the Association was founded by Mrs. T. Vernette Morse, Hamlin Garland was, for a while, its president.[6]

One of the most interesting publications to appear in this country on the subject of Impressionism was a pamphlet printed for the Central Art Association in autumn of 1894 entitled Impressions on Impressionism. It reproduced, or paraphrased, a discussion by persons who remained anonymous, but who were identified collectively as "The Critical Triumvirate," as they reviewed the "Seventh Annual Exhibition of American Paintings" at the Art Institute of Chicago, which opened on October 29 of that year. The Triumvirate were identified only as a Novelist, a Conservative Painter and a Sculptor; however, it has been ascertained that the Novelist is Garland, the Sculptor, Lorado Taft, and the Conservative Painter, the Barbizon-style landscapist, Charles E Browne. Garland and Taft were respectively the president and vice-president of the Central Art Association, and we can also be certain that Garland was the author of the pamphlet.

The conversation among the three, with occasional comments on the exhibition scene made in passing by other visitors, makes a clear but balanced case for Impressionism. The Conservative Painter, of course, is shocked by the brilliant Impressionist color. Robert Vonnoh's work is much discussed, and likened to that of Mark Fisher who had shown at the Colombian Exposition the previous year. The Novelist -- Garland -- found Steele's work especially admirable, direct and natural, and spoke of the respect that Steele had garnered from his Eastern colleagues. But Garland went on to state that "What I miss in the whole Exhibition I miss in American art and that is the drama of American life...We can't go on doing imitations and taking notes abroad. What pleases me about the Exposition is that while the principle of impressionism is almost everywhere it is finding individual expression. Henri and Herter, and Steele, and Tarbell, and Vonnoh, and Robinson all have a different touch -- they are gaining mastery of an individual technique. This shows we're pulling out of the imitative stage. There are very few pictures here with Monet's brush-stroke imitated in them. The next step is to do interesting American themes and do it naturally -- I don't want anybody dragooned into being American...The public will rise to meet the impressionist half-way; we never will return to the dead black shadow, nor to the affected grouping of the old."

The Conservative Painter -- Browne -- echoed Garland's sentiments, saying: "We will never have any home art with the real home flavor unless we are in close touch with what's around us here. What are Charles Sprague Pearce, Dannat, Waiter Gay, Harrison, Howe, D. Ridgway Knight, Melchers, and hosts of our most talented American born doing for us? In one way, nothing and less than nothing, for they've educated the public into thinking that a picture isn't good for much unless dated and signed abroad. Is a Brittany peasant more to us than everything else? Haven't we out-door subjects in our fields, or our mountains, by our glorious lakes, on the shores of our loud sounding seas? We assuredly have... As an exhibit it does what it should, it gives one an idea of the tendency of things up to date. It's fresh and bright enough and interesting too, but it doesn't fan one into a red hot hope for the future of American art. Painting is more than paint, and sunlight is more than orange and purple, and a landscape as well as a figure means more than a symphony of color, a pang of grey, or a whoop of violet."[7]

Garland and his colleagues were calling for an Americanization of Modern art, and for the Novelist at least, preferably in the Impressionist mode. He restated this call and this preference in January of 1895, in the introduction to the catalogue of the Palette and Cosmopolitan Art Clubs exhibit in Chicago: "Monet makes Giverny, Giverny does not make Monet...there must be keen sensitiveness to the beautiful and significant in nearby things. The Chicago artist, being denied certain picturesque aspects of seashore and mountain-side, has a rare chance to develop unhackneyed themes in sky and plain and in the life of the city itself. The light floods the Kankakee marshes as well as the meadows and willows of Giverny. The Muscatatuck has its subtleties of color as well as L'Oise, and a little young haymaker on the banks of the Fox River is certainly as admirable for art treatment in paint or clay as a clumsy Brittany peasant in wooden shoes."[8]

Yet the subtleties of the Muscatatuck had, in fact, already been rendered, and Garland knew that, for along with September, Steele had exhibited On the Muscatatuck at the Colombian Exposition. Soon, more of his work would be seen in Chicago. In 1894, Steele, with three fellow artists, participated in an important and historic exhibition sponsored by the Indianapolis Art Association at the Denison Hotel. His fellow exhibitors were William Forsyth, Otto Stark and Richard Buckner Gruelle. Gruelle was a self-trained painter who grew up in Illinois and went to Indianapolis in 1882. Forsyth's career was very similar to Steele's; he studied under Love and Gookins in their short-lived school in 1878 and then joined other Indianapolis artists in Munich, where he worked from 1883-1890. He returned to Indiana in 1890, first to Muncie where he worked with John Ottis Adams, a fellow student in the Munich Academy, and then moved to Indianapolis, painting at Vernon with Steele and teaching. Stark's background was somewhat different. Born in Indianapolis, he studied first at the Art Students' League in New York in
1882-83 under Chase, J. Carroll Beckwith and Walter Shirlaw, and then went to Paris in 1885 to study at the Académie Julian and also with Fernand Cormon. He returned to New York City in 1888, but after the death of his wife went back to Indianapolis in 1892, and two years later participated in the show of the summer work at the Denison Hotel.

So successful was the exhibition that Garland's Central Art Association brought it to Chicago, where it was presented during the winter at the Chicago Athenaeum Building. There were now five artists; the work of John Ottis Adams had been added to the show. It was this showing that earned the group their official designation as the "Hoosier Painters." Again, the Critical Triumvirate reviewed the exhibition and showered the artists with accolades, admiring their contentment at working out their own salvation in Indianapolis, unaided, undistracted by a brilliant society of painters. They were seen to represent the art consciousness of the West, in native canvases. Taft even voiced the opinion that crude works with local meaning appeal more than purely clever work. Garland felt that the show was one of the most unhackneyed and inspiring exhibitions ever made by an equal number of American landscape painters. The artists were identified as Impressionists, but they had selected the better parts of Impressionism. They were not "extreme impressionists" and did not slur everything, rather only the nonessentials. Their canvases focused upon prominent topographical features and large masses, utilizing plain skies and high horizons. Steele was recognized as the leader of the group, and particularly impressive was his most famous painting, the Bloom of the Grape of 1893, a scene in the Muscatatuck Valley. It was admired precisely because the artist was able to wring such beauty out of the apparently prosaic.

The critical success of their show in the larger city of Chicago, and Garland's endorsement of their work, helped the Hoosier School to coalesce. The group saw as their goal the rendering of the simple natural beauty of the Indiana woods and fields. As Otto Stark wrote in his essay on "The Evolution of Impressionism," the next step in art was embodiment of "Americanism." For Impressionism itself was a foreign artistic style and, as some critics had already pointed out, it was "soulless" and only "mechanical." American artists were to invest Impressionism with soul and with national spirit, and this could and should come about in the heartland of America rather than in the Europe-facing Eastern art establishment. This was American Regionalism and Nativism two generations before Thomas Hart Benton, John Steuart Curry and Grant Wood.

Steele emerged as not only the finest painter of the Hoosier School but their recognized leader, and he became a spokesman for the group and for Impressionism. He played this role when he lectured on "The Tendency of Modern Art " -- a defense of Impressionism -- about which he had written in Modern Art two years earlier. Steele's speech was given before the Convention of the Indiana Union of Literary Clubs in Huntington, Indiana, where Garland also was a speaker, and where an exhibition of the work of the Hoosier School was held. Garland's talk was on the "Indiana School of Landscape Painting," which he felt was a stronger group than the painters in Chicago. Garland also spoke to Steele of the admiration of Tarbell, Benson and Robinson for his work, and elsewhere the artist learned of Chase's high regard for his landscapes. In 1896, Steele advocated Modernism at the Art Institute of Chicago, the painter E Hopkinson Smith being his "opponent," taking a negative stance.

That year, 1896, saw the creation of the Society of Western Artists, an attempt to create something in the pictorial arts distinctly Western, but catering to Impressionism and grounded in Modernism. The organization was centered in Chicago but its exhibitions were shown in six Midwestern cities: Cleveland, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Chicago, St. Louis and Detroit. Frank Duveneck was the president of the group and Hamlin Garland its leading spokesman. The Indianapolis artists were recognized as the strongest, with Steele, Adams and Forsyth constituting the Indiana contingent of the new organization.

Through the Society, the work of Steele and his colleagues gained regional attention. In 1896, Adams and Steele showed in St. Louis, where Halsey Ives was the director of the Museum of Fine Arts. Ives lectured on Impressionism, declaring that the Indiana work was the equal of Monet's. Two years later, Steele and Adams bought a country home, The Hermitage, in Brookviile, Indiana. In 1900, Steele's Bloom of the Grape won an honorable mention at the Paris Universal Exposition, where he was on the jury of selection, as he also was four years later for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis. Four of his canvases appeared there, including The Old Mills. By this time, Steele's work was totally committed to the Impressionist aesthetic.

In 1899 Steele's first wife had died, and in 1906 he married again. At about this time, he started to explore the little known region of Brown County in Indiana, and in 1907 built his " House of the Singing Winds" there. Perhaps this most unspoiled area of Indiana seemed even more fresh and native, more American. Steele's presence there became a magnet for many other artists: Adolph and Ada Shulz, Adam Emery Albright, John Hafen, Will Vawter, Fred Hetherington and Gustave Baumann, who became the Brown County School.[9] Steele, meanwhile, was recognized as the outstanding figure in Indiana art, his work shown with that of Adams, Forsyth and Stark in the International Exposition in Buenos Aires in 1910, and that same year he was honored by a one-man show at the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis.

When the Indiana artists were students in Munich, they had been struck by the national characteristics displayed in the art exhibitions at the Glaspalast there, and had determined to infuse such qualities into American art, or at least Indiana art, on their return. At the time of Steele's retrospective of 1910, one critic wrote that: "Mr. Steele learned in Europe only a better way of expressing Indiana."[10] The Hoosier artists appeared to have accomplished the artistic purposes set out by Hamlin Garland: to express in a Modern aesthetic those qualities unique to the American scene.

If a study of the Hoosier School reveals a consciously pursued nativist amalgamation of Impressionist principles with the exploration of the American scene, the present knowledge of the situation in California painting at the turn of the century suggests little systematic interest in or absorption of Impressionist aesthetic, although certain California artists do exhibit Impressionistic tendencies. By the end of the 19th century there were two major centers in the state, but the development of professional artistic trends in Los Angeles began only about 1910 or so, really postdating American involvement with Impressionism.

The situation in San Francisco, on the other hand, was very different, with a strong artistic tradition already established even as early as the 1860s. However, during the period of greatest creative exploration of Impressionism elsewhere in America -- the last decade of the 19th century - San Francisco art was dominated by the California Decorative style, embodied in the work of Arthur Mathews, which affected all areas of visual culture, not only painting but furniture and the decorative arts as well. Mathews' style was primarily a figurative one, reflective of European Symbolism and related to the flat, decorative manner and muted tonal harmonies of Puvis de Chavannes and the rhythmic linearization of Art Nouveau[11]

Mathews' domination of the pictorial arts almost completely precluded an extensive investigation of Impressionism. A group of French Impressionist pictures was first shown in San Francisco at the 1894 Mid-Winter Fair, including works by Pissarro, Renoir, Sisley and two by Monet which were greeted enthusiastically for their dazzling atmosphere and color.[12] Several younger San Francisco artists, Joseph Raphael and Euphemia Charlton Fortune, did, in the early 20th century, apply Impressionist techniques and a wide range of color to landscapes in a very free, really expressionist manner. Raphael's treatment of a Rhododendron Field owes as much to Post-Impressionist Divisionism as it does to the parent movement; a native of San Francisco, Raphael had studied with Mathews at the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art before going on to Paris to study at the Ècole des Beaux-Arts and at the Académie Julian; much of his life was spent in Europe living at Uccle in Belgium.[13] Euphemia Fortune studied in England, at the St. John's Wood School of Art, in 1904. After further study in New York and several years back in Europe, she settled permanently in Monterey, California, in 1912.

The influence of these painters was, in turn, felt by Selden Gile, the central figure of the Oakland "Society of Six" which introduced a doctrine of greater Modernism and Fauvism into Bay area painting.

A special case can be made for regarding the well-known San Francisco painter Theodore Wores as an Impressionist.[14]Wores, a landscape and genre painter in whom interest has greatly increased during the last decade, was one of the first students of the School of Design of the San Francisco Art Association, entering there in 1874 and studying under Virgil Williams, himself a pupil of George Inness. Encouraged by Toby Rosenthal, one of the earliest Americans to study in Munich, Wores went to the Bavarian capital in 1875, studying privately with Rosenthal and at the Royal Academy under Ludwig Loefftz and Alexander von Wagner. He was a friend of Duveneck and Chase, a member of the American Art Students Club, and joined the "Duveneck Boys" in Venice in 1879. A meeting with Whistler led to a fervent enthusiasm for Japan which Wores was later to satisfy.

In 1881, back in this country, Wores became the first artist to investigate the subject matter of San Francisco's Chinatown, a theme heralding a predilection for the exotic which was to characterize much of Wores' painting. His fluid brushwork and bright coloration in these pictures brought Wores the patronage of the leading families of the area: the Stanfords, the Crockers and the Hearsts. In 1885, Wores made the first of several visits to Japan. He met John La Farge there briefly, and was later to write on Japan as La Farge had previously. Wores, through his several visits to Japan, influenced the direction of Japanese artistic Westernization, but Japanese art had no influence on Wores' painting. However, his painting did develop an increasing fluidity. Wores remained in Japan for two years, returning in 1887. On the occasion of exhibiting his work back in this country and then in London, he renewed his friendships with Chase and Whistler. His London exhibition at the Dowdeswell Galleries in 1888 was a success, and his work was compared to that of Whistler's disciple, Mortimer Menpes, who had shown his own Japanese pictures the previous year. Some English critics at the time referred to Wores' work as Impressionist.

In 1892, Wores went to the East again, visiting Hawaii and then Japan. He stayed in Japan over a year, and many more pictures are known from this second trip, works that are descriptive of Japanese life and landscape done in a polished style, but with brighter color, an interest in patterned light and shade, and a preference for floral motifs. These and Wores' Hawaiian scenes -- he was to return in 1901-02 to Hawaii and to Samoa -- are probably his best-known pictures today. Perhaps the finest of all his work, in terms of a sensitivity to light and to color relationships, are the paintings he did in Spain in 1903; the coloristic direction of his work at the time may owe something to the shipboard friendship he formed on the way to Europe with Philip and Lillian Hale from Boston. His scenes in and around Granada and Arcala are less concerned with the consciously picturesque and exotic than his Eastern views, and his pure landscapes done in Spain, crumbling architecture and garden subjects, bear witness to a sensitivity to the strong, all-pervading South European light.

This was Wores' last trip abroad; in 1907 he succeeded Mathews at the Hopkins Art School and continued to exert a force in the art life of San Francisco.


1. Wilbur D. Peat, Pioneer Painters of Indiana, Art Association of Indianapolis, 1954, is the standard study of Indiana art but it stops just short of consideration of the Hoosier Painters. Of prime significance, therefore, is Mary Quick Burnet, Art and Artists of Indiana, New York, The Century Company, 1921, and William Forsyth, Art in Indiana, Indianapolis, H. Lieber, 1916. Forsyth was one of the Hoosier group. See also Eva Draegert, "The Fine Arts in Indianapolis, 1880-1890," Indiana Magazine of History, Vol. 50, no. 4 (December, 1954), 321-348.

2. The standard monograph on Steele, and extremely significant for a study of the Hoosier school, is Selma N. Steele, Theodore L. Steele and Wilbur D. Peat, The House of the Singing Winds, The Life and Work of T.C. Steele, Indianapolis, Indiana Historical Society, 1966. Our bibliography lists several articles on Steele: Mary Quick Burnet, "Indiana University and T. C. Steele," American Magazine of Art, Vol. 15, no. 11 (November, 1924), 587-91, and Alfred Mansfield Brooks, "The art and Work of Theodore Steele," American Magazine of Art, Vol. 8, no. 10 (August, 1917), 401-06, and his "The House of the Singing Winds," American Magazine of Art,Vol. 11, no. 4 (February, 1920), 139-41.

3. Forsyth, Art in Indiana, 13

4. Quoted in Selma N. Steele, et. al,. House of the Singing Winds, 36, from an interview with Steele which appeared in the Indianapolis News for February 19, 1887.

5. Garland, Crumbling Idols, 97-110.

6. On the activities of the Association, see Russell Lynes, The Tastemakers, New York, Harper, 1954, 151-56.

7. "A Critical Triumvirate," Impressions on Impressionism, Chicago, printed for the Central Art Association, 1894, 22-24.

8. Quoted in John D. Kysela, S. J., "The Critical and Literary Background for a Study of the Development of Taste for Modern Art in America, from 1880 to 1900," unpublished M.A. thesis, Loyola University, 1964, 100.

9. See Adolph Robert Schultz, "The Story of the Brown County Art Colony," Indiana Magazine of History, Vol. 31, no. 4 (December 1935), 282-89, and Josephine A. Graf, "The Brown County Art Colony," Indiana Magazine of History, Vol. 35, no. 4 (December, 1939), 365-370.

10. Selma N. Steele, et. al., House of the Singing Winds, 136

11. See the essay by Harvey L. Jones in the exhibition catalogue Mathews Masterpieces of the California Decorative Style, The Oakland Museum, 1972.

12. Sonia Bryan, "Impressionism in California: The Impact of 19th Century French Art," in Joseph Armstrong Baird, Jr., ed., Theodore Wores and the Beginnings of Internationalism in Northern California Painting: 1874-1915, Davis, California, Library Associates, University Library, University of California, Davis, 1978, 14-18.

13. See the catalogue with an introduction by Theodore M. Lilienthal, An Exhibition of Rediscovery: Joseph Raphael, 1872-1950, Judah L. Magnes Memorial Museum, Berkeley, 1975.

14. For Wores, see especially the several publications by Joseph Armstrong Baird, Jr. and Lewis Ferbraché which are listed in the bibliography.


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