Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts

Montgomery, AL




American Impressionism from the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery


The fifty paintings included in this exhibition are drawn from the exceptional collection of the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery at the University of Nebraska and document achievements of important American artists who worked in the style of Impressionism. This style, most closely identified with nineteenth-century French artists, rejected traditional academic approaches to painting and sought to capture fleeting effects of light, color and the aspects of everyday life on canvas. Many of America's greatest painters in the Impressionist style are included in this exhibition, among them William Merritt Chase, Chide Hassam, Robert Henri, Ernest Lawson and Maurice Prendergast.

Impressionism was originally a French phenomenon arising from a confluence of social, scientific and art histories. During the brief period from about 1870 to about 1890, academic painting, with its reliance upon classical references and historic themes conveyed through a Renaissance (e.g. "window") sense of space and composition, was supplanted by a growing interest in an art of immediacy. The French Impressionists applied pigment in small touches of pure color which seemed dazzlingly bright and unfinished when compared to works by contemporary academic artists. As photography captured the present tense and the Industrial Revolution propelled Europe into the future, the Impressionists sought to establish the visual reality of everyday life as legitimate subject matter. Their study of light and its effect on familiar objects was a radical departure from the narrative, romantic, and historical concerns of the previous generation.

As the aesthetic of Impressionism developed and transcontinental travel and study became customary for Americans, some American artists began to adopt the Impressionist style--sometimes as much as sixty years after the height of Impressionism in France. What is referred to as American Impressionism is actually a hybrid of influences converging in the United States over the course of many decades (about 1890-1930).

The style was one of many that were popular during this time period. Like their French prototypes, American Impressionists applied pigment in small touches of pure color and looked to contemporary life for their subject matter. Childe Hassam, William Merritt Chase, John Twachtman, J. Alden Weir, and Willard Metcalf organized The Ten American Painters, a group formed in 1897 after a feud with the Society of American Artists. Though individual styles vary within the group, The Ten are regarded as the first official American derivative of Impressionism.

This exhibition was organized by the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery and Sculpture Garden, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog, which includes color reproductions of many of the exhibition's paintings, and interpretive essays by acclaimed American art historian William Gerdts and former Sheldon Gallery Curator, Daphne Deeds.

From top to bottom: William Glackens, Mahone Bay, 1910, oil on canvas; Theodore Wendel, Girl with Turkeys, Giverny, 1886, oil on canvas; Louis Ritman, Dormitory Breakfast, 1913, oil on canvas

rev. 11/22/10

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