American Impressionism in the Garden

The Daughter and I got our first taste of American Impressionism  a year or so ago when the Peninsula Fine Art Center had a wonderful exhibit of paintings entitled Masterworks of American Impressionism.  The works were grouped according to the school or colony to which the artists belonged.  We learned that American artists with similar aesthetics and vision would gather in the most picturesque regions of New England and paint together. Colonies formed in Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New York. We really enjoyed the exhibit and jotted down the names of the artists whose work we especially liked in order to look some more at home – Frederick Childe Hassam, Fern Coppedge, Robert Lewis Reid, Frank Weston Benson.

This past Spring, we drove to Richmond to visit the Virginia Fine Arts Museum for their exhibit The Art of the Flower.  This group of paintings focused on the exquisitely detailed work of mid-to-late eighteenth century floral still life in France and the transition to Impressionism. There were a great many paintings of flower arrangements.

Closer to home, the Chrysler Museum welcomed a family friendly summer vacation exhibit entitled The Artist’s Garden: American Impressionism and the Garden Movement 1887-1920.  The book for the exhibit is here. The Daughter and I had planned several times to stop in during our break, but each time something came up. So we made it our first field trip of the new school year, visiting just a few days before the exhibit packed up to move to Winston-Salem, NC. We were very glad that we made it.


A cluster of six galleries in hues of deep lavender, rosy pink, and sky blue created a gentle, dreamy background to canvases blooming with color, each painting offering a window to golden tree-clad hillsides, misty twilight fields, slanting shadows on snow, sparkling fountains, dappled sunlight on white dresses, and a plethora of lush green gardens filled with flowers.

Despite the somewhat tight focus on gardens, I found a great deal of variety in this exhibit, and found myself wishing I had visited more than once.  A few paintings drew me back and I was surprised to discover that each of them were by the same artist, Daniel Garber. Primarily a landscape painter, he was a member of the artist’s colony at New Hope, Pennsylvania, and went on to teach at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. His painting, The Orchard Window, was easily the favorite for The Daughter and for me.  The sunlight through the curtains, on his daughter’s hair, on the page of the book, on the yellow flowers outside – just beautiful. We also recognized a few Childe-Hassam paintings, and saw a few other familiar names from our previous outing to the Peninsula.

This very informative article, American Impressionism, describes the movement on our continent and provides examples of characteristics such as composition, color technique, subject matter and perspective that make American Impressionism beautifully unique.

I took a few pictures:

This video, American Impressionism, was actually prepared to accompany the exhibit we saw at the Peninsula Fine Art Center, American Impressionism:  The Lure of the Artist Colony.  It does a wonderful job of describing the growth of American Impressionism, especially through the development of the Artist Colony, and highlights a few of the more prominent painters of the genre.



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