Crocker Art Museum

Sacramento, California

(916) 264-5423


Decisive Moments: American Impressionist Painting from West Coast Collections

Opening at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, California on August 27, 1999 will be an exquisite selection of forty-six American Impressionist paintings from private collections throughout the West coast. A number of the paintings in this exhibition have not been exhibited publicly in this area before.

Decisive Moments offers a rare opportunity to compare the interests and styles of West Coast American Impressionist artists with their counterparts who specialized in depicting scenes of New York City, New England artist colonies, or France.

After its development in France during the early 1870s, Impressionism was adapted and transformed by painters throughout Europe and, later, in the United States as well. Responding to the influence of the French artists, particularly to the leadership of Claude Monet after he settled in Giverny, American painters introduced the high key colors, broken brushstroke, and everyday subjects characteristic of Impressionism into their work. Likewise, they looked to many common sources, including photography and Japanese prints, which stimulated their use of pictorial devices such as cropping and asymmetrical compositions.

Practiced in this country from as early as 1885 and continuing to flourish into the 1930s, American Impressionist painters followed their European counterparts in depicting ephemeral effects, such as waves and dappled sunlight, to create visually stunning paintings. Some, such as Theodore Butler and Guy Rose, benefited from extended stays at Giverny; others took advantage of study in Europe or were largely exposed to Impressionist ideas through private collections and important exhibitions held in East Coast and other urban art centers.

Eschewing the scientific analysis and color theory that informed many of the French masters, the American artists remained more closely allied with their realist traditions. Although they captured depicted many idyllic landscape motifs, figure subjects were more prevalent, as evidenced by Childe Hassam' s An Outdoor Portrait of Miss Weir or Guy Rose's tender composition Warm Afternoon.

Additionally, although French Impressionists espoused their commitment to contemporary life, their American colleagues often chose to capture rustic scenery or upper class women at leisure, alluding to qualities of life that were becoming rapidly displaced in growing urban centers. Although the rendering of specific atmospheric conditions was explored, as in Willard Metcalf's exquisite winter landscapes or Granville Redmond's light-drenched fields of poppies and lupines, these paintings more often suspend time that suggest a fleeting moment.

These qualities are explored in Decisive Moments: American Impressionist Paintings from West Coast Collections, which brings together paintings by artists who worked in Europe, on the East Coast, and in California. Among the works featured, many of which are borrowed from private collections, are oil paintings by Frank Boggs, Theodore Earl Butler, Frederick Carl Frieseke, Childe Hassam, Mary Amanda Lewis, Maurice Prendergast, Joseph Raffael, Granville Redmond, Theodore Robinson, and Theodore Wores. An illustrated brochure will accompany the exhibition.

Images from top to bottom: Willliam Ritschel (1864-1949), The Instealing Fog, n.d., oil on canvas, Crocker Art Museum Collection; Mary Amanda Lewis, Sketching, n.d., oil on canvas, Crocker Art Museum, Private Collection; Willard L. Metcalf (1858-1925), Auberge, Road to Giverny 1887, oil on canvas, Frye Art Museum, Seattle; Frank Boggs (1855-1926), French Harbor with Village, Buildings and Boats, n.d., oil on canvas, Private Collection; Guy Rose, A Difficult Reply, c. 1910, oil on canvas, 29 x 24 inches, Collection of Stephen and Suzanne Diamond.

Read more about the Crocker Art Museum in Resource Library Magazine

For further biographical information on selected artists cited in this article please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 10/18/10

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 1999 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.

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