Divided Light and Color: American Impressionist Landscapes
October 29, 2011 - January 29, 2012
Still among the best loved of all artistic movements, Impressionism records the world with a memorable alacrity, capturing scenes with a spontaneous shorthand of divided light and color. Impressionist landscapes were first codified outside Paris by Monet and Renoir in 1869, but soon spread abroad, where, by the late 1880s, they found an enthusiastic and highly individualized group of practitioners in America. Many of these early American Impressionists would make the pilgrimage to France, some working with Monet. One of the greatest strengths of the Bruce Museum’s permanent collection and local private collectors’ interests is American Impressionist landscape. The exhibition Divided Light and Color: American Impressionist Landscapes will bring together two dozen of the finest examples of this art in a show with imagery that continues to enchant and endure.
The Old Lyme Art Colony of Old Lyme, Connecticut was established in 1899 by American painter Henry Ward Ranger, in its time the most famous art colony in the United States, and the first to adopt Impressionism.
Ranger began his American equivalent to the French Barbizon school in the modest boarding house of Florence Griswold, bringing fellow artists Lewis Cohen, Henry Rankin Poore, Louis Paul Dessar, and William Henry Howe in 1900. The group came to be dominated, socially and artistically, by Childe Hassam after his appearance in 1903.
The colony was important to the development of American Impressionism. Perhaps 200 painters passed through the colony during its height in the next 30 years. Many significant American Impressionist paintings of the era depict buildings in and around Old Lyme, notably the Old Lyme Congregational Church, painted by Hassam and others. The 1906 painting May Night by Willard Metcalf shows the boardinghouse by night, with a figure said to be Griswold herself. This was the first contemporary painting purchased by the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Old Lyme remains a thriving art community. The Griswold House has been transformed into an art museum, the Florence Griswold Museum, affectionately called “Flo Gris”, by local residents. The museum holds artists’ work along with personal possessions of the artists who frequented there.
“On the Suffolk Coast”, ca. 1885, by Willard Leroy Metcalf (American, 1858-1925). Metcalf was an American artist born in Lowell, Massachusetts. He studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and later attended Académie Julian, Paris.He was one of the Ten American Painters who in 1897 seceded from the Society of American Artists. For some years he was an instructor in the Womans Art School, Cooper Union, New York, and in the Art Students League, New York. In 1893 he became a member of the American Watercolor Society, New York. Generally associated with American Impressionism, he is also remembered for his New England landscapes and involvement with the Old Lyme Art Colony at Old Lyme, Connecticut.
Henry Ward Ranger (January 29, 1858 – November 7, 1916 ), American artist, was born in western New York State. He was a prominent landscape and marine painter, an important Tonalist, and the leader of the Old Lyme Art Colony. Ranger became a National Academician (1906), and a member of the American Water Color Society. Among his paintings are, Top of the Hill, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and East River Idyll, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Tonalism was an artistic style that emerged in the 1880s when American artists began to paint landscape forms with an overall tone of colored atmosphere or mist. Between 1880 and 1915, dark, neutral hues such as gray, brown or blue, often dominated compositions by artists associated with the style. During the late 1890s, American art critics began to use the term “tonal” to describe these works. Two of the leading associated painters were George Inness and James McNeill Whistler.
Tonalism is sometimes used to describe American landscapes derived from the French Barbizon style, which emphasized mood and shadow. Tonalism was eventually eclipsed by Impressionism and European modernism.