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The Impressionist Tradition in America

July 19, 2003 - Late March, 2004


From Auguste Renoir and Edgar Degas to Mary Cassatt and John Singer Sargent, the Corcoran's collection of Impressionist works has ties to Europe but ultimately reflects a distinctly American sensibility. The Impressionist Tradition in America explores American Impressionism through paintings, sculptures and works on paper selected from the Corcoran's permanent collection. The exhibition illustrates the development of American Impressionism from its European roots and complements the Museum's groundbreaking exhibition, Beyond the Frame: Impressionism Revisited, the Sculptures of J. Seward Johnson, Jr. On view at the Corcoran Gallery of Art from July 19, 2003 through late March 2004, The Impressionist Tradition in America showcases the Museum's finest Impressionist masterpieces. (right: Cecilia Beaux, Sita and Sarita, c. 1921, oil on canvas, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Museum Purchase)

"Though American artists were somewhat slow to embrace Impressionism, they did eventually adopt the style, adding their own innovations," says Sarah Cash, Bechhoefer Curator of American Art at the Corcoran. "American artists maintained the essential forms of the objects they depicted, unlike the French Impressionists who dissolved form into the paint. Furthermore, American Impressionists tended to have diverse approaches rather than a uniform style."

Organized thematically, The Impressionist Tradition in America is divided into several sections: the urban scene, the rural landscape, John Singer Sargent and his influence, Gilded Age representations of women and the influence of Impressionism on The Eight, a group of progressive early twentieth-century American artists. In addition, several French Impressionist works are included for introductory and comparative purposes. Highlights of the exhibition include landscapes by Theodore Robinson, who lived next door to Claude Monet in Giverny, as well as bucolic scenes by Willard Metcalf and John Twachtman. Childe Hassam's street scenes and intimate city interiors reflect the artist's response to his increasingly urbanized surroundings. John Singer Sargent is well represented with his majestic portrait of Mrs. Henry White, Italian landscape Simplon Pass and noted canvas Oyster Gatherers of Cancale. Often compared with Sargent, Cecilia Beaux is represented by Sita and Sarita, a painting influenced by Sargent's portrait style.(right: Willard Leroy Metcalf, May Night, 1906, oil on canvas, Corcoran Gallery of Art)

A significant portion of The Impressionist Tradition in America is devoted to works addressing the American woman during the Gilded Age (1873 - 1921). Paintings by Edmund Tarbell and Thomas Wilmer Dewing, works on paper by Mary Cassatt, sculptures by Bessie Potter Vonnoh and watercolors by Winslow Homer touch on themes of motherhood, handiwork and other domestic pursuits.

The influence of American Impressionism was far-reaching, extending well into the early twentieth century. The work of Maurice Prendergast and William Glackens references Impressionism but adds a distinctly modern touch. For instance, Prendergast's Landscape with Figures evidences a vivid palette and a heavily built-up surface that recall the work of his French forerunners but the mosaic-like patterning anticipates mid-century abstraction.



Known primarily for his street sculptures, which appear in many American and European cities, J. Seward Johnson, Jr. has recently turned his attention to creating life-sized sculptures of famous Impressionist paintings. Beyond the Frame: Impressionism Revisited, the Sculptures of J. Seward Johnson, Jr. invites visitors to explore more than 20 tableaux, previously known only as paintings. Audiences can walk into the settings and, surrounded by the painting, view the work in three dimensions - a perspective Johnson has wholly imagined. On view at the Corcoran from September 13, 2003 through January 5, 2004, Beyond the Frame marks the first museum presentation of these works. A fully-illustrated book published by Bulfinch Press accompanies the exhibition.



The Impressionist Tradition in America is organized by the Corcoran Gallery of Art.


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