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Scenic Impressions: Southern Interpretations from The Johnson Collection

Scenic Impressions: Southern Interpretations from The Johnson Collection

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Scenic Impressions: Southern Interpretations from The Johnson Collection

465 pages
6 heures
Dec 16, 2015


The radical changes wrought by the rise of the salon system in nineteenth-century Europe provoked an interesting response from painters in the American South. Painterly trends emanating from Barbizon and Giverny emphasized the subtle textures of nature through warm color and broken brush stroke. Artists’ subject matter tended to represent a prosperous middle class at play, with the subtle suggestion that painting was indeed art for art’s sake and not an evocation of the heroic manner. Many painters in the South took up the stylistics of Tonalism, Impressionism, and naturalism to create works of a very evocative nature, works which celebrated the Southern scene as an exotic other, a locale offering refuge from an increasingly mechanized urban environment.

Scenic Impressions offers an insight into a particular period of American art history as borne out in seminal paintings from the holdings of the Johnson Collection of Spartanburg, South Carolina. By consolidating academic information on a disparate group of objects under a common theme and important global artistic umbrella, Scenic Impressions will underscore the Johnsons’ commitment to illuminating the rich cultural history of the American South and advancing scholarship in the field, specifically examining some forty paintings created between 1880 and 1940, including landscapes and genre scenes. A foreword, written by Kevin Sharp, director of the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis, Tennessee, introduces the topic. Two lead essays, written by noted art historians Estill Curtis Pennington and Martha R. Severens, discuss the history and import of the Impressionist movement—abroad and domestically—and specifically address the school’s influence on art created in and about the American South. The featured works of art are presented in full color plates and delineated in complementary entries written by Pennington and Severens. Also included are detailed artist biographies illustrated by photographs of the artists, extensive documentation, and indices.

Featured artists include Wayman Adams, Colin Campbell Cooper, Elliott Daingerfield, G. Ruger Donoho, Harvey Joiner, John Ross Key, Blondelle Malone, Lawrence Mazzanovich, Paul Plaschke, Hattie Saussy, Alice Ravenel, Huger Smith, Anthony Thieme, and Helen Turner.
Dec 16, 2015

À propos de l'auteur

Estill Curtis Pennington has served in curatorial capacities for the Archives of American Art, National Portrait Gallery, New Orleans Museum of Art, and Morris Museum of Art. Pennington's Kentucky: The Master Painters from the Frontier Era to the Great Depression was a nominee for the Smithsonian's Charles C. Eldredge Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in American Art and a winner of the 2009 Publication Award of Merit from the Kentucky Historical Society. His previous collaboration with the Johnson Collection is Romantic Spirits: Nineteenth-Century Paintings of the South from the Johnson Collection.

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Scenic Impressions - Estill Curtis Pennington


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ON MAY 15, 1863, ONE OF THE MOST SIGNIFICANT ART EXHIBITIONS HELD in the nineteenth century opened at the Palais de l’Industrie in Paris. This installation of paintings by artists who had been rejected from the annual Salon of the Académie des Beaux-Arts was popularly known as the Salon des Refusés. Among those who submitted their work were the painters Édouard Manet, Henri Fantin-Latour, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, and the American expatriate James Abbott McNeill Whistler. Participation in the counter-exhibition was completely voluntary, a democratic innovation conceived by the Emperor Napoleon III who announced that he wished to let the public judge the legitimacy of these claims against the official Salon, whose yearly displays were deemed, at least by the French, to be of global consequence.¹

The involvement of the republic’s leader in settling a highly fractious dispute between the established academic art world and a disparate group of collectors, dealers, artists, and critics indicates both the power of the Salon to make or break an artist’s reputation, and the general public’s enthusiasm for the exhibition. During the haute bourgeois days of the Second Empire, tens of thousands of people attended these annual Salons. Whether those legions of would-be connoisseurs were truly interested in art is irrelevant. They understood that the Salon season was the time to see and be seen in Paris, to shop, to eat, to drink, to play, and to absorb officially sanctioned taste.² As manifest in the works of William Bouguereau, Alexandre Cabanel, and Jéan-Leon Gérôme, this taste reflected a preference for paintings whose solidity of form, vivid coloration, and thematic implication of moral purpose elevated them above the banalities of everyday life.

A rejection of that style was on flagrant display in the fleshy realism, bold design, and jarring color contrasts of Édouard Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe [The Luncheon on the Grass] (page 10), the painting which attracted more attention and commentary than any other work shown at the Salon des Refusés. In Manet’s densely wooded setting, four figures are seen in the aftermath of a luncheon al fresco. Manet’s composition playfully recalls the high baroque organization of the planar field into foreground, mid-ground, and rear-ground, wherein figural placement is arranged to enhance perspective and establish depth. In the mid-ground, we see three figures: two men fully clothed in the attire of the day and a nude woman at their side. In the background, a woman is bathing in the forest stream. To the left in the foreground, the seated nude’s clothes sit in a chaotic heap beside a tilted basket spilling the repast’s remains upon the grass.

The naked woman and her companion to the right gaze out in a pleasant, casual manner which clearly acknowledges the viewer’s presence. Their male companion on the right peers into the background, his arm and hand extended in a mannerist gesture giving two signals—for while he looks within, he points without. The blatant nudity in the midst of modern dress, without a trace of self-consciousness, proved outrageous to bourgeois sensibility. After touring the exhibition with the Empress Eugénie, Napoleon III deemed the painting immodest. A verbose British critic had far more to say, denouncing the wretched Frenchman who had proved that the nude, when painted by vulgar men, is inevitably indecent.³

Manet was not without his defenders. Writing in his daily reports from the exhibition, Zacharie Astruc proclaimed Manet one of the greatest artistic characters of the time! . . . He is [the Salon des Refusés’] brilliance, inspiration, powerful, flavor, surprise. Manet’s talent has a decisive side that startles.⁴ Émile Zola, the iconoclast novelist and a champion of the Impressionist aesthetic, thought the nudes in the painting to be inoffensive essays in natural flesh tones.⁵ In a modernist moment, Zola envisioned the painting as a departure from convention and was able to simultaneously appreciate the content and technique without assessing some moral purpose by which the painting could be categorized. Ironically, like many of Manet’s works, The Luncheon on the Grass draws on classical compositional sources, in this case Raphael and Giorgione. Edgar Degas later commented on this practice: Manet drew inspiration from everywhere . . . but with what marvelous handling of the brush did he not make something new of it!

That The Luncheon on the Grass should continue to be a difficult picture to read adds to the mystique which makes it, like Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, an enduring art historical icon. Setting aside the debate about the painting’s narrative context permits us to acknowledge the work’s central role in establishing one of the recurring themes of the Impressionist movement: the artist is an outsider in society whose works offer the viewing public more trenchant insight because they are drawn from inspired personal vision rather than academic consensus. After the Salon des Refusés, the supremacy of the academy was doomed. In one reading of Impressionism, the modern era begins at Manet’s picnic, when a shocking painting provoked a public debate about the very role of art in society.

Jean Frédéric Bazille (1841–1870), Summer Scene, 1869, oil on canvas, 63 x 63¼ inches. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. F. Meynier de Salinelles, 1937.78. Photo: Imaging Department © President and Fellows of Harvard College.

TO ACCEPT THE IMPRESSIONIST IMPULSE AS A TRULY REVOLUTIONARY MOMENT in the history of art, attention must be focused upon distinct shifts in technique and subject matter. Not only did Manet’s painting contain controversial narrative elements, it was also executed in a style which detoured from fixed academic canon. As mirrored by their contemporary literary counterparts, the Impressionist artists sought to represent the essence of what they saw, unconstrained by formulaic principles of representation. Painting en plein air—or in the open air—with a heightened sensitivity to the subtle nuances of nature, particularly variances in the atmospheric reflections of sunlight, became a central element in the emerging Impressionist style. As the movement matured, several of its adherents became minutely preoccupied with the shading of light. To fully explore such subtleties, Impressionist painters developed a much more textured surface than that of more traditional practitioners and executed their work in lighter, more vibrant colors whose close harmonic values add to the sense of spontaneous expression.⁷ This transition can be clearly traced in the movement’s development. Manet’s picnic painting still employs the use of rather heavy contrasts to suggest volume, depth, and perspective. Manet continued to carry a deep black on his palette, unlike Claude Monet, who was shocked when John Singer Sargent asked him for a bit of black while painting outdoors.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841–1919), Luncheon of the Boating Party, between 1880 and 1881, oil on canvas, 51¼ x 69⅛ inches. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

Manet’s contemporary, Frédéric Bazille, had already begun to employ more luminous color in sun-lit scenes unrestrained by sobering shadow. Descended from a family of well-to-do French wine makers, Bazille went to Paris to study medicine at his father’s behest. Far more interested in literature and the fine arts, he shared studio space with the fledgling artists Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir at his own expense. He was philosophically aligned with the artists who participated in the Salon des Refusés, and his apartment in the Rue de la Condamine became, between 1868 and 1870, a gathering place for writers, musicians, and painters.

Bazille was passionately concerned with light and color as borne out in his last major painting, Summer Scene (Bathers), which was on view at the Salon of 1870, six months before his death in the Franco-Prussian War. Though executed in 1869 and debuted four years before the inaugural Impressionist exhibition—as mounted by the Société Anonyme des Artistes in 1874—the work is an astonishing definition of the technical and luminescent goals of the new style. Like Manet’s picnic, Summer Scene is staged in a rather theatrical manner. The setting is pastoral, populated by several male figures, in poses of activity or rest in a dazzling bright field. Seen from a panoramic viewpoint, the various men spread out in a subtle horizontal spandrel defined by the curve of the river bank. Unlike Manet’s work, none of the subjects directly engage the viewer. Some of the figures stem from historical sources, like the young man standing to the left, whose pose recalls the martyred form of St. Sebastian. Others—like the two men wrestling or the figure climbing from the water on the right—were drawn from actual sketches made by the artist from life. The foreshortened perspective and disengaged male figures may account for one critical determination of the undeniable strangeness. Bazille himself acknowledged this conundrum when he wrote a friend that he would arrive in Paris with a single painting, which you may find atrocious; I don’t know where it’s going.⁸ While he may not have known where it was going, it is quite clear where he has been: outdoors.

As precursors to Impressionism per se, Manet and Bazille’s paintings embody the stylistic evolution from academic studio work drawn from formulaic sources to the pleinairist interest in natural observation first pursued by the artists of the Barbizon School. While both were also caught up in the public critical debate about what was—and was not—appropriate subject matter for contemporary painting, they each still relied upon historical sources for compositional elements, particularly in figurative pose.

Following the 1874 exhibition of the Société Anonyme des Artistes, another critical theme of Impressionism, the portrayal of leisure time, can be detected. Growing prosperity and a continuing diminution of the hierarchical power of the aristocratic elite introduced increased leisure time to the burgeoning middle class of France’s Third Republic. This evolution afforded artists the opportunity to depict individuals at rest and play, radically shifting notions of sanctioned subject matter. In the process, the heroic figures that had dominated academic art were supplanted by bourgeois men and women in the pursuit of pleasure.

Born to a working class family, Auguste Renoir was a rare individual in nineteenth century life: an upwardly mobile artist who overcame the limitations of his background to achieve considerable success. Renoir’s charming compositions of plump, pretty pink women in ribbons and flowers invite the viewer into a world of comfort, ease, and charm, making him the most approachable of the Impressionist artists. While these very abilities have led to a tendency to dismiss him as being of less substance than Monet, Manet, or Edgar Degas, his continuity as a strong public favorite tells much about Impressionism’s enduring appeal.

Of Renoir’s best known works in this country, none is more familiar than Luncheon of the Boating Party.¹⁰ A seemingly casual depiction of a boisterous gathering on the river bank, it is actually a complex composition which merges mainstream European traditions in design with revolutionary elements of light and color. The entire group of figures that occupies the area beneath the awning is confined within a rhomboid space created by the rigid angle of the promontory, enlivened by the flapping lines of the canvas fringe. A support pole in the center rear ground defines the point upon which the angular lines of the composition converge, leading the eye back and dividing the planar field into two distinct episodes. To the left, a burly man leans against the rail behind a young coquette holding up a fluffy little dog to which she coos. An abundant still life of fruit, wine, and bread crumbs attests to the midday meal the revelers have enjoyed. On the right, tight little groups are engaged in noisy, lively conversation, evidenced by the gesture of one young woman placing her hands over her ears. Interestingly, classical balance and symmetry abound. The figural group to the right is offset by the relative isolation of the two principal figures on the left, while the strategic use of red highlights to outline the figures enhances volumetric mass. Renoir’s delightful compositions and seductive colors set a precedent which was easy to imitate, but difficult to match. Speaking to a specific moment in time, Renoir celebrates the arrival of leisure, relaxation, and the classless associations implicit within the makeup of the boating party.

THESE THREE ENCHANTING FRENCH PAINTINGS OFFER A VISUAL VOCABULARY of style, color, and content prefiguring the scenic impressions of various artists working in the United States. Yet, from the very moment those surging currents of change coalesced into the Impressionist movement, American artists and collectors were present. Not since legions of young American painters had flocked to Benjamin West’s studio in eighteenth century London did such a rich cross-fertilization transpire. By the turn of the century, the essential themes of Impressionism had permeated the American art world to such an extent that an identifiable American Impressionism is now seen as one of the defining moments in national art history. As William Gerdts has observed, the vital potency of the Impressionist movement in American art is celebrated not only in its aesthetic legacy but in the richness, beauty, and diversity of its own pictorial achievements.¹¹ The powerful precedent of three American expatriate artists in particular—James Whistler, Mary Cassatt, and John Singer Sargent—would prove especially influential.

Whistler, who had been expelled from West Point by Robert E. Lee before moving abroad to pursue an artistic career, certainly qualified as a creative rebel. His entry in the Salon des Refusés, Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl (1862), was a portrait of his Irish mistress, Joanna Hiffernan—an arresting and monumental work that had the distinction of being rejected by both the Royal Academy and the Parisian Salon. The Massachusetts native had much in common with the fledgling French Impressionists. Like Bazille, Whistler had studied for a while in Charles Gleyre’s studio; under Gustave Courbet’s influence, he experimented with pleinairism. He also shared with Manet an evolving aesthetic which considered depictions of the figure as an opportunity for expressing his color sensibilities and painterly regard for naturalistic textures. When hung at the Salon des Refusés, The White Girl proved almost as controversial as Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass. Critical response ranged from assumptions that the image depicted a young bride on the night after her deflowering, stunned and dazed by the experience, to a medium whose psychic powers rendered her aloof from worldly concerns.

Manet, Whistler’s fellow traveler in contemporary realism, acknowledged the American artist’s influence upon his work. Though The White Girl was Whistler’s first significant public success, his was a presence already quite well known in French art circles, and he proved to be one of the more significant American expatriates on the European art scene. Frederick Wedmore, the English art critic, deemed his work to be like that of the Impressionists in two respects—it aims generally to record what the eye actually sees, and not what the mind knows the eye ought to see, and likewise it addresses itself with courage and confidence to the artistic problems of modern life, and our artificial society.¹² Ultimately, Whistler’s late Tonalist experiments in depicting light and air would prove inspirational for several artists essaying the Southern scene in the early twentieth century.

James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903), Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, 1862, oil on canvas, 83⅞ x 42½ inches. Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Harris Whittemore Collection 1943.6.2.

Mary Stevenson Cassatt (1844–1926), Breakfast in Bed, 1897, oil on canvas, 25⅝ x 29 inches. © Courtesy of the Huntington Art Collections, San Marino, California.

Mary Cassatt, daughter of a wealthy Pennsylvania businessman, was an early and rare instance of the self-actualizing woman artist, the acceptance of whose work by the Salon in 1874 launched a career in France, where she would spend the remainder of her long life. In 1877, she met Edgar Degas, who became both friend and mentor, and who introduced her to the Impressionist circle. Her paintings were shown with the Impressionists in 1879, 1880, 1881, and 1886, giving her the singular distinction of being the only American—and only one of two women—included in those legendary group exhibitions.

Cassatt shared with Degas a deep interest and sure talent for pastel and for complicated printmaking techniques. Conveyed in richly glowing colors, her subject matter explored the pictorial potential of domestic scenes of everyday life—the act of pouring tea, bathing the baby, or enjoying an afternoon stroll—in a way that imbues the most ordinary of moments with a sense of reverie. In her art, Cassatt developed a feeling for individual character, natural charm and grace, for genuine sentiment as well as tenderness and harmonious accord.¹³ Her choice of subject matter would find powerful echoes in the genteel Southern Impressionism of Helen Turner and Catherine Wiley. (See pages 124 and 128.)

John Singer Sargent was surely the most virtuoso artist of the three seminal expatriates, but the least easy to categorize. Whether or not Sargent was truly an Impressionist is a matter of semantics, poised between definitions of the style as a painterly shift in craft and technique, or as a radical departure from conventions for compositional pictorialism. Best known for monumental society portraits of old English gentry and new American money, Sargent shared Manet’s penchant for bravura brushwork and darker tonalities. Sargent’s work also reflects an inclination for public statement and private reverie—a reflection, perhaps, of the artist’s own enigmatic personality. Having spent the first part of his career in Paris, he was acquainted with both Impressionism and certain of the Impressionist artists. He seems to have met Monet at the Durand-Ruel Gallery in Paris in 1876, and during the next two decades, the artists maintained a cordial relationship. Partially inspired by Monet’s example, Sargent began a series of pleinairist experiments, the results of which differed substantially from his portraiture.

In the summer of 1885, following the disastrous premiere and ensuing scandal of his suggestively alluring Portrait of Madame X (1884), Sargent abandoned life in France for England. During that summer and the next, he spent a great deal of time in the Cotswolds, where he created his pleinairist masterpiece Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose (page 21). Sargent’s scene depicts two young girls in white dresses lighting paper lanterns amidst a garden profuse with carnations, lilies, and damask roses, illuminated by golden twilight. It was an enormous challenge, which the artist considered a fearful, difficult subject. Impossible brilliant colors of flowers, and lamps and brightest green lawn background. Paints are not bright enough, & then the effect only lasts ten minutes.¹⁴

Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose was the sensation of the Royal Academy exhibition of 1887. British critics were divided as to whether or not the work was truly impressionistic, and if so, what that might mean. At least one reviewer considered it an example of the dab and spot school of French art. William Gerdts views the painting as a prime example of the transformational aspect of American Impressionism. Sargent’s mastery could be seen to lie not in the picture’s Impressionist light, color and broken brushwork, but rather in its overall decorativeness and in the subtle expressivity of the figures. This critical emphasis corresponded with the reading of Impressionism that was developing in England and which, ultimately, found its way to America.¹⁵

Sargent’s greatest admirer in the American expatriate community was the writer Henry James. James was responsible, in part, for introducing the American public to the Impressionists in an article he published in the New York Tribune on May 13, 1876. Approaching Impressionism as a counterpoint to the English Pre-Raphaelitism, he described the new movement’s practitioners as partisans of unadorned reality and absolute foes to arrangement, embellishment, [and] selection. James recognized that the Impressionists were concerned with that which was inherently beautiful, not that which could be tarted up to seem beautiful. Let it alone, they say, and it will come at its own pleasure; the painter’s proper field is simply the actual, and to give a vivid impression of how a thing happens to look at a particular moment, is the essence of his mission.¹⁶ In taking up the antique argument between that which is universally acknowledged to be beautiful and that which is not, James clearly identifies the American climate of taste into which Impressionism plunged.

IF THE ESSENTIAL THEMES OF THE IMPRESSIONIST MOVEMENT CONCERN intellectual rebellion, revolutionary artistic technique, and the deliberate selection of non-traditional subject matter, then the American artistic community was ill prepared for the run. Unlike the French and English, the Americans had no established, truly national academy or entity against which iconoclastic artists could assert the social concerns of a fledgling avant-garde.¹⁷ Without such an authority, American art also lacked a defining academic style, like that of France’s Académie des Beaux-Arts, from which a painterly mode concerned with light, color, and broken brushwork could depart. As to choosing a more naturalistic subject matter, there the Americans may have already preceded the French. Picaresque characters were pervasive in nineteenth century literature and genre painting, giving initial American naturalism a humorous vein and a subtle substance.

What some Americans did have was money, and lots of it. Following the Civil War, the demise of traditional agrarianism and rise of modern industrialization resulted in unprecedented American wealth. The spirit of New England Calvinism, with its dire warnings of vanity and over-indulgence, became as passé as Old South infatuations with classical education and a mannered, hierarchical society. What the American nouveau riche of the late nineteenth century wanted was taste, and for this they turned to Europe. There, they found more than sufficient antiquities to haul back and admire. They also found a new painting style which happily satisfied their longing to impress: Impressionism.

Improvements in communication and transportation assuaged the American thirst to stay abreast of European trends, thus blunting the reputation for provincialism. Throughout the 1880s and 1890s, the East Coast public was privy to several major showings of recent French art. In 1883, the American Exhibition of the Products, Arts and Manufactures of Foreign Nations (known as the Boston Foreign Fair) featured works by Monet, Manet, Renoir, Sisley, and Pissaro. During that same year, J. Carroll Beckwith and William Merritt Chase organized an Impressionist exhibition under the auspices of the National Academy of Design. Proceeds from this show were contributed to the fund drive to erect a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty, further proof of Franco-American cordiality. Paul Durand-Ruel, the influential Parisian dealer, held an exhibition in New York in 1886. The fervor of this interest surely culminated during the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 when Bertha Honoré Palmer organized a showing of French Impressionists drawn from private collections to offset their lamentable absence from the fair’s French art pavilion: in the French exhibit appeared not a single canvas from the Impressionists—at that time the most innovative and most truly native of French painters—whereas in the American exhibit could be found not only some of the best works of the native school . . . but also the works of American students of Impressionism.¹⁸

John Singer Sargent (1856–1925), Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose, 1885–1886, oil on canvas, 68½ x 60½ inches. Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1887. Photo © Tate, London 2015.

William Merritt Chase, ca. 1900/unidentified photographer. Rockwell Kent Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Indeed, American collectors were diligent in the acquisition of these works. Under Mary Cassatt’s influence, Louisine Elder Havemeyer began to assemble a collection of French Impressionist paintings which eventually found its way into the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Bertha Palmer’s paintings formed the nucleus of the formidable Art Institute of Chicago collection, which grew to include some of the great masterpieces of the era. Well into the twentieth century, American families like the Johnsons and Wideners in Philadelphia, and the Phillipses in Washington, D.C., purchased works which have made American public collections among the most important holdings of Impressionism in the world.

French Impressionism also appeared on the American scene at a moment when schools for teaching art were becoming established institutions. While Thomas Eakins and Thomas Anschutz at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts may not have been Impressionists as such, they shared the French interest in realism, naturalism, and the painterly mode.¹⁹ Over time, the academy’s faculty would include a roster of luminaries—Joseph De Camp, Theodore Robinson, Robert Vonnoh, and J. Alden Weir—further ratifying Philadelpia’s place as polestar in the Impressionist milieu. In New York, the establishment of the Cooper Union and the Art Students League attracted influential instructors such as William Merritt Chase, Frank Vincent DuMond, Robert Reid, and others.

American teaching techniques were loosely derived from the French model. A cursory survey of biographical details of American Impressionists invariably shows some connection to the Académie Julian in Paris. Founded by Rodolphe Julian and conducted as yet another manifestation of the atelier system, the eponymous school was more like a teeming consortium of artists than an institution with a rigorous academic agenda. While the older academies in Paris, which the Impressionist movement soon supplanted, concentrated on the drawing of the figure from life and plaster casts, as well as the craft of laying down colors of close value in harmonic concentration, the Académie Julian was much less structured. Its relaxed atmosphere made it especially attractive to enterprising young artists: the teaching was flexible, and there were no restrictions; it was open every day except Sunday from eight in the morning until nightfall unlike other institutions which closed in the early afternoon. Most importantly, there were no entry requirements, and it was much frequented by foreigners, who were excluded from the official educational system, as were women of any nationality.²⁰

From the descriptions of noise and activity, it becomes apparent that perhaps the most valuable commodity which emerged from Julian’s atelier was a raucous exchange of ideas. As painting technique moved beyond the rigid sanctions of academic composition, teaching became a matter of developing sufficient technical craft to provide a sturdy platform for idiosyncratic embellishment. George du Maurier describes the artists in this setting as animated by a certain esprit de corps, and working very happily and genially together, on the whole, and always willing to help each other with sincere artistic counsel if it was asked for seriously, though it was not always couched in terms very flattering to one’s self-love.²¹

As the most prominent American teacher, William Merritt Chase was able to foster and perpetuate this atmosphere by the power of his flamboyant personality. Charismatic, nattily dressed, and perennially supportive, he did much to elevate the profession to a degree of social acceptance and even dignity. His preoccupation with status and productivity were entirely in accord with the American spirit. Chase had little difficulty in eliciting a sincere endeavor on the part of his pupils, whom he claimed generally had a strong desire to become ‘real painters, with ambition to excel, but above all, with ambition to do work of permanent value.’²²

UNTIL 1883, CLAUDE MONET PURSUED A SOMEWHAT ITINERANT EXISTENCE, working intermittently in Paris, Argenteuil, and Vétheuile, experimenting with light in landscape painting, while sustaining an interest in still life and the figure. Though his painting Impression, soleil levant [Impression, Sunrise] (page 25) had given the entire movement a name, he was never an ardent member of any group. His pictures were hung in the Société Anonyme des Artistes

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