Landscapes from the Age of Impressionism
Landscapes from the Age of Impressionism is a captivating exhibition of 38 paintings, including many of the finest examples of mid nineteenth- through early twentieth-century French and American landscape in the Brooklyn Museum's collection. Ranging in date from the 1850s to the 1920s, the works presented offer a broad survey of landscape painting as practiced by such leading French artists as Gustave Courbet and Claude Monet and their most significant American followers including Frederick Childe Hassam and John Singer Sargent.

Landscapes from the Age of Impressionism has been organized by the Brooklyn Museum. In Omaha, major sponsors of the exhibition are Douglas County, Energy Systems, First National Bank, Mutual of Omaha, Omaha Steaks, Peter Kiewit Sons, Robert H. Storz Foundation, and Valmont. Contributing sponsors are Lenore Polack, Deloitte., and Lincoln Financial Group. Supporting sponsors are Fran and Rich Juro, SilverStone Group, and Slosburg Company.

Free with regular Museum admission (free to all Saturday mornings, 10 am to noon).

A companion exhibition presents three masterworks by Gauguin, Monet, and Van Gogh from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Landscapes from the Age of Impressionism events include:

  • the Joslyn Art Museum Association's 2010 gala fundraiser (June 4)
  • a Joslyn members celebration (June 19) featuring a lecture by Joslyn Executive Director & CEO Jack Becker; vocalist Anne Marie Kenny and pianist Mitch Fuller will perform compositions by Debussy, Chausson, Duparc, and Bizet on the atrium bridge
  • Family Fun Day (August 22)
  • teen/adult plein air painting workshops (summer)
  • two Thursday evening French- and Impressionism-inspired programs, part of Joslyn's new Late 'til 8 series
  • July 8 ~ Bonsoir: An Evening of French Wine, Dance, & Design
  • July 15 ~ An Evening of Impressionist High Notes
Joslyn's own internationally recognized collection of Impressionist paintings is a wonderful complement to the exhibition. It includes Monet's The Meadow and Small Country Farm at Bordighera, Renoir's Young Girls at the Piano, Hassam's Paris Street Scene, Cassatt's Woman Reading, and Chase's Sunlight and Shadow.

About Landscapes from the Age of Impressionism

Among the earliest works in Landscapes from the Age of Impressionism are Charles-François Daubigny's The River Seine at Mantes (1856) and Gustave Courbet's Isolated Rock (1862), both of which reveal the impact of plein-airsketching practice on landscape art of the period. Many of the painters of the Barbizon School (named after the village near Fontainebleau Forest, where the artists gathered) executed on-site, preparatory sketches, experimenting with the effects of light and by conveyance of shapes through blocks of color arrangements. These sketches were carried over into the larger, more carefully designed paintings later completed in their studios.

Heirs to this plein-air tradition, French Impressionists Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro, and Gustave Caillebotte painted highly elaborated "impressions" — the seemingly spontaneous, rapidly executed landscapes and cityscapes that prompted the name of their movement. Monet is represented in the exhibition by three works: Rising Tide at Pourville (1882), Vernon in the Sun (1894), and The Islets at Port-Villez (1897). Selecting a subject, Monet would position himself before it for hours over a series of days, if not months, substituting one canvas for another as dictated by changing light and atmospheric effects. In this manner, the artist could produce a series of works devoted to the same subject but viewed under different conditions.

For all their affinities, the Impressionists were never a homogeneous group with a unified style and clearly defined principles. They rather were a loose association of gifted artists linked by common ideas and banded together for purposes of exhibiting their art. This wide range of artistic approaches can be seen by comparing works in the exhibition. In The Port, Trouville, for instance, Eugène Boudin employed soft, loose brushwork and a high-keyed palette in plein air seascapes under luminous skies. By contrast, Jules Breton expressed his empathy for peasants in paintings such as Fin du travail (The End of the Working Day) that emphasized an austere dignity. Gustave Courbet, the supreme Realist, influenced many with his vivid, naturalistic landscapes. He began his famous "wave" paintings, capturing a single surge of water at the point of breaking, in the late 1860s.

Following in the footsteps of the French archetypes, beginning at mid century many American painters sought to improve their skills and find inspiration in Paris and its environs by attending French art academies and frequenting the painting locations made famous by their Barbizon and Impressionist predecessors. Some of the Americans had direct contact with leading French landscape painters, sharing landscape sites or seeking informal guidance from admired mentors. In the summers when the academies were closed, they typically went to the artists' colonies in the rural communities outside Paris, such as Pont-Aven and Fontainebleau. Giverny, a small village located halfway between Paris and Rouen in the Seine valley, was held in enormous esteem, not just for the general ambiance but especially for its most renowned resident, Claude Monet.

An American Impressionist who caught the spirit of the new French painting during 1870 was John Singer Sargent. Whereas most of the future American Impressionists intended to return to the US after studying abroad, Sargent, born in Florence to expatriate American parents and 18 years old when he arrived in Paris, seems never to have envisioned living anywhere other than Europe. Other leading American Impressionists featured in the exhibition are William Glackens, John Henry Twachtman, Edward Potthast, Childe Hassam, and a group of Americans who worked at various times in Claude Monet's home village, Giverny: Theodore Robinson, Willard Leroy Metcalf, and Julian Alden Weir.

The majority of the American paintings in the exhibition depict American locales, demonstrating the eagerness of these returning artists to retain their progressive aesthetics, and to update the American scene in vibrant, innovative canvases. This led to the appearance of American beaches, factories, tenements, and such notable subjects as New York's Central Park in paintings distinguished by brilliant colors and lively, broken brushwork. Prominent among these are Glackens' Bathing at Bellport, Long Island (1912), Weir's Willimantic Thread Factory (1893), Robert Spencer's The White Tenement (1913), and Metcalf's Early Spring Afternoon—Central Park (1911).