Sunday, November 03, 2019

American Impressionism and Portraiture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

On my recent visit to New York, I visited The Metropolitan Museum of Art twice.

The first area I headed to (after the roof!) on the first day was the section devoted to American Impressionism. (The American Wing - North West corner of the Met - 2nd floor the 700s rooms).

Leaving the Met at the end of the day - on 15th October 2019 
The view of Lower Manhattan and the southern part of Central Park
from the terrace on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Tuesday 15th October
It's a real revelation to see some of the paintings you've admired for so long in art books be revealed to you in their normal "home".  Seeing some of the exhibitions I found is not quite the same as seeing them in the Met!

On the whole I think I'd recommend a chronological approach to the Impressionist Galleries unless you are short of time - in which case head straight to the Impressionists and make sure you see some of Hudson School too.

I've uploaded some of my photos into American Impressionism and late 19th Century Portraiture at the Met - a public album on my Making A Mark Facebook Page

Rooms I recommend 

Gallery 771: Portraiture in the Grand Manner, 1880–1900
After the Civil War, the United States experienced profound changes, including rapid economic expansion and population growth, and emerged as a world power. Great wealth and a desire for conspicuous display characterized the period, which has been called the Gilded Age. American artists studied abroad, especially in Paris and Munich, and then competed with their European contemporaries for portrait commissions from American patrons. Both the patrons and painters were also aware of the mode of portraiture prevalent in Great Britain, which was at the apex of its imperial influence and prestige. John Singer Sargent, the quintessential American cosmopolite, was born in Italy, studied and worked in Paris, and operated thereafter with equal success in London, Boston, and New York. This gallery is a testament to the ability of Sargent and his contemporaries to capture on canvas the personalities of their intriguing acquaintances as well as their paying patrons.
Having met Claude Monet in Paris, probably in 1876, the expatriate John Singer Sargent was inspired to experiment with Impressionism. Throughout his successful career as a portraitist headquartered in London (as evidenced in 771), Sargent would always refresh his studio work by painting out of doors in both oils and watercolors. By 1887 several other American artists had been attracted to Giverny, on the Seine about fifty miles northwest of Paris, initially by its charm and then by the presence of Monet, who had settled in the village in May 1883 (Sargent also called on Monet there in the 1880s). Theodore Robinson became the leader of the American Giverny group, first visiting in 1885 and spending months there annually from 1887 until 1892. Back in the United States, Robinson and Childe Hassam shared their enthusiasm for French Impressionism with their American colleagues, including John H. Twachtman and J. Alden Weir, who became converts to the style.

Gallery 769: American Impressionism and Realism, 1880–1920

During the 1880s, after studying in Paris, American artists returned home and began to experiment with French Impressionism. Among the most celebrated of these artists were William Merritt Chase, who painted Impressionist scenes of New York’s public parks and of the seaside at Shinnecock, Long Island, and Childe Hassam, who became the leading Impressionist chronicler of New York and New England.Rejecting the prevailing trends of academism and Impressionism, a modern, rugged realism emerged in the early twentieth century in the work of such artists as Rockwell Kent and George Bellows. Their canvases portray the emergence of the modern city, technology, and engineering prowess while also celebrating the vitality of nature in the American landscape.

Gallery 768: Images of Women, 1880–1910

Around 1900, refined women were favored subjects of many American artists. The works in this gallery reflect the contemporary notion that a woman's proper sphere was within a harmonious interior, absorbed in cultivated pastimes, or in a sheltered outdoor setting, engaged in leisure activities. These works also suggest the wide range of styles that artists enlisted to depict their genteel subjects. Women artists were especially successful in describing women's activities at first hand. Among them were the painter, pastellist, and printmaker Mary Cassatt, who settled in Paris in 1874, responded to the influence of the French Impressionists, and became the only American to participate in their exhibitions; and the sculptor Bessie Potter Vonnoh, who worked principally in New York and produced statuettes of women in conventional roles.

Artists whose work is included

The links in their names are to their entry on the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History on the Met website in terms of both a bio and artwork

Mary Cassatt (1844 - 1926) 

the American Artist and Impressionist painter and printmaker who was a friend of the French Impressionists
portrait paintings by Mary Cassatt (left and right)

Childe Hassam (1859-1935) 

- a pioneer of American Impressionism. Did you know that, after John Singer Sargent and Mary Cassatt, there are more paintings, drawings and prints by Childe Hassam in the Metropolitan Museum of Art than any other American Impressionist painter?

Crop of Childe Hassam's painting of Celia Thaxter's garden on the Isles of Shoals in Maine.
This painting is one of the finest of a series of works that Hassam made during summers in the 1890s on Appledore Island, one of the Isles of Shoals, which lie ten miles east of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. This series portrays the sumptuous wildflower garden cultivated by his friend, poet Celia Thaxter, a garden that provided a marvelous contrast to the rugged terrain of the island itself. In this painting, vibrant red poppies entangled in lush green foliage introduce a view of bleached Babb's Rock. The painting shows Hassam at the height of his creativity as an American Impressionist.
SEE ALSO the website I created ages ago About Childe Hassam - American Impressionist Painter

John Singer Sargent (1856–1925)

- the noted American painter, draftsman, portraitist, muralist and watercolorist.
Portraits of society women by John Singer Sargent
Paintings by John Singer Sargent

William Merritt Chase (1849–1916)

Paintings by William Merrit Chase

Maurice Prendergast (1858-1924)

Central Park by Maurice Prendergast

I'm finishing with Central Park because a combination of lack of time and needing to pace myself so I could stay on my feet meant that Central Park is something I have looked at - but not yet visited.

However I was very impressed with New York and I plan to go back.....