Georgia Museum of Art

University of Georgia

Athens, GA



Following is an essay from the book titled "Crosscurrents in American Impressionism at the Turn of the Century," William U. Eiland, General Editor, Donald Keyes and Janice Simon, Editors, reprinted with permission of the Georgia Museum of Art. The essay is titled "American Impressionism Goes West," by Charles C. Eldredge, PhD. "Crosscurrents in American Impressionism at the Turn of the Century" was published in 1996 by the Georgia Museum of Art, ISBN 0-915977-16-8.


American Impressionism Goes West

by Charles C. Eldredge, PhD


Henry James, whose artistic insights were as keen as his social ones, once observed: "It sounds like a paradox, but it is a very simple truth, that when to-day we look for 'American art' we find it mainly in Paris. When we find it out of Paris, we at least find a great deal of Paris in it."[l]

By 1893, when James's paradoxical truth was published, artists from the United States had been gravitating to the French capital for decades. In the years following the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War, the traffic peaked, and with it came an American "heyday at the Salons." As noted by Lois Fink, the "couple of hundred" Americans who had exhibited in the annual Paris exhibitions from 1800 to 1870 were followed by "more than a thousand" between 1872 and 1899.[2]

Many of the visitors were drawn to the new capital of art to study with the leading academicians whose works dominated the salons. Instruction from such painters as Jean-Léon Gérôme, Jules-Joseph Lefebvre, and Léon Bonnat helped shape the development of American students who flocked to their ateliers, as well as the taste of a generation of their compatriots. The academic tradition was, however, scarcely the sole source of inspiration for the growing community of American painters in Paris.

In April 1874, the First Impressionist Exhibition (as it came to be called in retrospect) opened in Paris. Although other artists had previously taken exception to the conventional standards of the annual juried salons and organized individual or collective "independent" exhibitions -- most famously in the Salon des Refusés in 1863 -- none was to have a greater impact than this gathering, from which developed the series of eight exhibitions of the Impressionists that concluded in 1886. Although the exhibitors in these shows were many and varied, a core group quickly achieved prominence, including Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, and Camille Pissarro. In 1879 the Impressionists welcomed to their ranks the American artist, Mary Cassatt, protegée of Degas, who showed in all but one of the remaining group exhibitions.[3] She also served as an important advocate for the new movement among her compatriots and as a conduit for the conveyance of many Impressionist masterworks to American collections.

While Cassatt was unique in her alliance with the French masters, she was representative of the enthusiasm with which many Americans took to the new style, especially from 1886 when the dealer Durand-Ruel initiated frequent New York exhibitions -- and sales -- of French Impressionism. The vogue for painting en plein air, with its resulting freshness of color, led to the establishment of numerous summer art colonies at various vacation spots in the northeastern United States, and ultimately far beyond. Locales proximate to major art centers were especially popular, such as Shinnecock, Long Island, where William Merritt Chase directed this country's first summer school of plein-air painting from 1891 to 1902. There Chase tackled the effects of the moment, seeking to capture the immediacy of fleeting clouds and of evanescent coastal light. His objective -- "I believe in single-sitting impressions"[4] -- was inspired by the precedent of the French Impressionists, whose works he had admired in Europe and in American collections where they were increasingly well-represented. For him, as for many of the French Impressionists' early followers in the United States, considerations of technique eclipsed those of subject: "If one can paint a fence rail well," said Chase, "it is far better than an unsuccessful attempt at the most sublime scenery, for it is not what one does, but the way it is done."[5]

The American author Hamlin Garland was an early champion of the new style and penned an influential account of the French Impressionists' work; but he tempered his enthusiasm for the French manner with an admonition to his compatriots to apply the new technique to familiar subjects: "Each painter should paint his own surroundings.... art, to be vital, must be local in its subject."[6] Such concerns often led to a delight in familiar, indeed sometimes banal, landscape subjects like the fence rails of Shinnecock, or the weathered rural structures of southeastern Connecticut that were often depicted by what Childe Hassam called the "Cos Cob clapboard school."[7] It was a generational proclivity that provided the basis for Lewis Mumford's later characterization of the period as one of "intense absorption in the local and the regional."[8]

Hamlin Garland, however, the son of the Middle Border, was not content to let his impulse to the "local" rest in New York or New England with quaint, clapboard motifs. In decrying the habit of artistic expatriation, he celebrated the attractions of the American Midwest. For instance, "the Chicago artist, being denied certain picturesque aspects of seashore and mountain side, has a rare chance to develop unhackneyed themes in sky and plain.... The light floods the Kankakee marshes as well as the meadows and willows of Giverny. The Muscatatuck has its subtleties of color as well as L'Oise, and a little young haymaker on the banks of the Fox River is certainly as admirable . . . as a clumsy Brittany peasant in wooden shoes."[9]

As subjects, Illinois farm boys and Breton peasants might bear some resemblance; however, equally noteworthy are the obvious differences between the environment that spawned Impressionism and that to which Garland summoned attention. The humid valley of the Seine and the coastal settlements of Brittany and Normandy, favored by the French innovators, boasted qualities of light and atmosphere similar to many of the familiar art centers of the northeastern United States. The impression of a sunrise over Le Havre, for example, might not differ essentially from morning light's effect on New York Harbor or Peconic Ray. While Monet's style may vary in particulars from those of Chase, Twachtman, and other American Impressionists, those trans-Atlantic followers of the French masters at least shared inspiration from similar climatic environs. That similarity to the generative French ambience was not so easily recognized in the Midwest, however, Garland's acclamations notwithstanding. Also, it was even more remote from the Rocky Mountain West and beyond, arid regions so different from northwestern France. Yet, despite the differences in climate and topography, the Impressionist vogue eventually spread across the vast and varied American landscape, adapting readily to very different circumstances of light, scale, and color from those in its Seine valley birthplace.

The completion of the transcontinental railway in 1869, marked with the driving of the Golden Spike at Promontory Point, Utah, placed Americans in a new relationship to their distinctive western landscape. Out of the fascination with its dramatic scenery and its potential for development and fueled by a post-war prosperity and a nascent nationalism in the wake of sectional strife, a fledgling tourist boom began in the region. Visitors flocked to natural wonders, their migration facilitated by the railroads and encouraged by the popular press -- and recorded by artists. Yosemite tourists provided subjects for the California painter Wilhelm Hahn in 1874 (Yosemite Valley from Glacier Point; California Historical Society, San Francisco), just as their eastern contemporaries did for Winslow Homer in the Catskills, at Long Branch, New Jersey, and other fashionable haunts.

Harper's New Monthly Magazine published a typical tale, of two sisters and their tourist dilemma:

"It is perfectly absurd for you to keep going to Europe in this way, summer after summer," remarked the Maiden, with the emphasis and exaggeration peculiar to younger sisters.
"We have only been twice," murmured the married sister, apologetically.
"But once is enough. That is, if you haven't seen Colorado, and the Yellowstone, and Tacoma, and Alaska, and Yosemite. Of course one wants to go once . . . if you want art, or history, or architecture, or associations, you must go to Europe for them. If you were going for the winter, or to study anything, I could understand it. But you are not. You are going only for the summer and for scenery. And you will go straight to that miserable little Tyrol --"
"Miserable little Tyrol!" exclaimed Mrs. Thayer, in dismay.
"--When you might go to the Yellowstone."[10]

Travelers had been flocking to Yellowstone in increasing numbers for more than a decade before Mrs. Thayer received her sisterly advice. The popular press added to the keen interest in the newly accessible area. For instance, Scribner's subscribers in 1872 read Richard Watson Gilder's acclamation of the region's "unexampled richness ... as a field for the artist or the pleasure tourist....Verily a colossal sort of junketing place!"[11] The place disproved skeptics of American claims to grandiosity, noted editor Gilder. He recalled the Yankee "boast of bigger lakes, larger rivers, louder thunder, and more forked lightning than any other country. If anyone doubt this hereafter, we shall refer them to the Yellowstone Park." The landscape's superlatives inspired a patriotic fervor akin to that of the Tyrol-averse younger sister in the Harper's tale: "Why," he concluded, "should we waste ourselves in unpatriotic wonderment over the gorge of the Tamina or the Via Mala, when Nature has furnished us with the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, in which the famed Swiss ravines would be but as a crevice or a wrinkle? Why run across the sea to stifle and sneeze over the ill odors of Solfaterra, when we can spoil our lungs or our trowsers to better effect, and on an incomparably larger scale, with the gigantic boiling springs and geysers of Montana! And why strain and stiffen our backs in staring up at Terni or the Schmadribach, which are but as side-jets and spray-flakes to the Titanic majesty of Wyoming Lower Falls?"[12]

A mountain man like Jim Bridger early recognized the special character of the Yellowstone's thermal region, which he described picturesquely as "a place where hell bubbles up."[13] Where hell once bubbled, tourists were shortly to congregate. Entrepreneurs were quick to capitalize on Yellowstone's remarkable attractions, particularly after it became a national park in 1872; from the late 1880s on, a tourist industry boomed in the area. The Northern Pacific Railroad widely advertised the park's attractions and delivered a growing horde of affluent
tourists to the coachmen and hotelkeepers of the park. The Yellowstone entrepreneurs succeeded, to the consternation of some of their visitors, such as Rudyard Kipling. "Today I am in the Yellowstone Park:' he wrote in 1889, "and I wish I were dead." Kipling deplored the travel agent who "collects masses of Down-Easters from the New England States and elsewhere and hurls them across the Continent and into the Yellowstone Park on tour."

An unprecedented legislative act of the U.S. Congress creating the first national park at Yellowstone in 1872 was inspired by the accounts of Ferdinand V. Hayden, leader of the survey expedition to the region in the previous year, and by the pictorial record of Thomas Moran, who had accompanied the Hayden group. Their reports, verbal and visual, astonished legislators and laymen alike, especially their descriptions of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, which Hayden called "the greatest wonder of all."[15] In his enormous canvas of the subject, Moran sought to convey his emotional response to the spectacle, conveyed paradoxically through what appeared to be geological specifics. He tried especially to capture the chromatic drama of the canyon, a challenge even for the artist who, as Hayden claimed, was "justly celebrated for his exquisite taste as a colorist." Awed by the canyon of the Yellowstone, Moran (according to Hayden) exclaimed, "with a sort of regretful enthusiasm, that these beautiful tints were beyond the reach of human art."[16]

Twenty-one years after his first memorable Yellowstone canvas, Moran returned to the subject in another monumental painting. In this later example, the color was even more dramatically intense than in the initial panorama. The brushwork grew looser and, although it did not dissolve form in the Impressionist manner, it suggests Moran's susceptibility to the French vogue that by then was firmly implanted in America. Yet even Moran's more atmospheric reworking of the Yellowstone motif appears conventional when compared to the radical pictorial solutions that John Twachtman discovered at the park two years later.

In September 1895 the Impressionist Twachtman traveled from his Connecticut home to Yellowstone. This departure from his usual Eastern landscape inspirations was made at the request of his patron, William A. Wadsworth of Buffalo, New York, who provided the only direct commission in the artist's career. Traditionally, Twachtman's art is appreciated as the product of a deep attachment to home, a celebration of the familiar. But even a homebody needs release on occasion, as suggested in the artist's jubilant report from the park: "This trip is like the outing of a city boy to the country for the first time. I was too long in one place. This scenery too is fine enough to shock any mind."[17] It was fine enough to inspire at least fourteen Twachtman paintings.

Moran's broad panoramas of the canyon lead the eye into the dramatic recesses, as if to illustrate the exclamations of early surveyors: "It is grand, gloomy, and terrible . . . an empire of shadows and turmoil."[18] By contrast, Twachtman's vertical compositions compress the image, adopting a view based on a fragment rather than the panorama. The choice cancels the terror through a more intimate, telescopic vignette on the canyon and its distant cataract. With his pastel hues and daubs of pigment, the artist neutralizes the terribilità of Moran's subject; he is concerned with extracting from the subject design more than drama.

Many Yellowstone visitors exclaimed over the brilliant, multicolored formations, a geological spectrum of "all the colors of the land, sea, and sky," including that which gave the region its name.[19] For a colorist of Twachtman's gifts, the site provided an exceptional stimulus, which grew as the season changed. Snow scenes were always among the artist's favorite subjects, and his delight only increased after the landscape paled under winter's early mantle: "We have had several snow storms and the ground is white -- the canyon looks more beautiful than ever."[20]

In the park's thermal region Twachtman painted two of the colorful hot pools that were favorite tourist destinations: Morning Glory Pool, which some visitors thought "worth a dozen [Old] Faithfuls," and the Emerald Pool, which, even "were there nothing else to see in the Park, . .. would be worth a journey."[21] Again, Twachtman's vantage was different from Moran's. Instead of a wide landscape overflowing with brilliantly tinted hot waters, as the earlier visitor painted at the Mammoth Hot Springs, the Impressionist approached his subject closely and fairly filled the canvas with its uptilted, rounded form. The steaming blue-green waters of Twachtman's Emerald Pool are described against the snow white ground in an elegant design akin to the curvilinear patterns, like art nouveau, that he often painted in winter views of the brook on his Connecticut farm. His contemporaries likened the Emerald Pool to "a thin goblet with Creme de Menthe, on the top [of which are] drop[ped) a few 'beads' of absinthe," and its mists rising in the cold air to "steam from a dirty laundry."[22] Needing no analogy by word or picture to other objects, natural or otherwise, Twachtman's fresh vision discovered in the Emerald Pool an abstract design. As described by Doreen Bolger, Twachtman's composition developed through his admiration of woodblock prints by the nineteenth-century Japanese master, Ando Hiroshige. The "actual landscape elements [in Emerald Pool] are virtually unrecognizable, viewed so close and painted so broadly that they are reduced to flat shapes bounded by sinuous lines."[23] Twachtman manages the unlikely transplant of Impressionist stroke and color, combined with a Japanese design sensibility, to realize some of the most remarkable nineteenth-century landscapes of the American West.

Duncan Phillips, a dedicated champion of Twachtman's rarified landscapes, appreciated the uniqueness of his achievement. "Of course he did not try to copy or compete with the Rocky Mountains," Phillips acknowledged. "How frail would his lovely art have seemed if he had tried! His attitude was like that of the Oriental painters, who worshipped Nature by means of art. . . . It was the paradox of this art of Twachtman's that it grew out of the so-called 'impressionist' movement, which had stressed the evanescent appearance and physical aspects of the visible world, yet it matured into a lyricism which proclaimed its faith in the invisible and eternal."[24]

As Twachtman's vision transformed the familiar image of Yellowstone, so too did other painters re-discover the Western landscape through novel stylistic means. Thomas Moran was also an early depictor of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, which he explored with Major John Wesley Powell's geological survey in 1873 As with the Hayden expedition to the Yellowstone, the Powell survey also led to a major Moran canvas, the monumental Grand Canyon of the Colorado, 1873-74, which likewise was purchased by act of Congress. Drawn with comparable precision, combining the effect of geological detail with awesome spectacle, the painting also contributed to rising public interest in the natural wonders of the West. In later years Moran revisited the Grand Canyon and painted numerous smaller canvases of the site. In these later treatments, as with those of the Yellowstone, atmospheric effects became newly important to the painter, suggesting another echo of the popular Impressionist technique. This looser manner, applied to Moran's modestly-sized, later Canyon pictures, effectively transformed the awesome chasm into congenial tourist ground. The change appeared to be the product of patronage, as style was put to the service of Moran's corporate sponsor, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, primary carrier to the Southwest. Geological record yielded to scenic view. Survey document became travel advertisement.

Moran and the railroad both profited from the interest in the Grand Canyon, which was further stimulated by a highly publicized visit from President Roosevelt in 1903. The Santa Fe railway had begun operating a branch line to the Canyon in 1901, and the year following the Presidential visit, in order to serve the swelling traffic, it opened a new hotel on the brink of the canyon, Fred Harvey's famed El Tovar Hotel. The hotel long remained the favored destination for the fortunate on a "Grand Tour" of the American West, providing them with private dining rooms, huge fireplaces, music and art rooms, a spacious ladies' lounge, an Indian Museum (Hopi House), and other comforts.

Of course, visitors to the Grand Canyon were not always so pampered. Photographer John Hillers worked at the canyon in 1872 in primitive, pre-Harvey conditions, recording its geological wonders. For the documentary purposes of his art, a clear focus and pictorial precision were at a premium. By 1911, however, when Alvin Langdon Coburn and Arthur Wesley Dow were both working with cameras at the canyon, the Impressionist-inspired haze of photographic pictorialism dominated; their interest was not in geological strata, stone chimneys, or erosion patterns, but in the general atmospheric effects of the site, which they captured with fogged impressions of light and shadow. In Dow's case, he later translated these blurred images into colorful plays of pigment brushed with a loose stroke indebted to Impressionism.

The pilgrimage to the Grand Canyon provided many artists with their first introduction to the desert country of the Southwest. That terrain's harsh beauty did not easily nor readily figure in the country's expanding repertoire of regional landscape motifs, so remote was it from the common experience. Later, Georgia O'Keeffe often referred to the desert country of her beloved northern New Mexico as "the faraway." To earlier visitors the landscape of Arizona's Painted Desert, Utah's salt flats, or California's Death Valley must have seemed even more foreign, faraway, and forbidding. The desert was defined, environmentally and in imagination, by its aridity. The clear air and hard light created a landscape of stark contrasts, of dramatic shadows and highlighted masses of dune or mesa. This was the regional image conveyed by Edward Weston's photographs of sandscapes in the 1930s or by Maynard Dixon's southwestern landscape paintings of the 1920s onward, works whose sleek, stylized forms transformed the subject into a Deco desert.

Yet, before their crystalline images captured the public imagination, other artists had resorted to more familiar techniques to capture their impressions of the arid country. So far from the Seine, from familiar scenes of farm and forest, the brilliant hues and broken stroke of Impressionist painting proved -- perhaps unpredictably -- adaptable to this most un-French of landscapes. Anna Hills arrived in California in 1912 and quickly became a leader of the fledgling Laguna Beach art colony, from which she explored a variety of California landscape motifs. The salubrious local conditions favored painting en plein air, even in the interior desert where Hills worked as early as 1915. There she caught the fleeting effects of light and shadow on sand and sage with means that owed much to Impressionism. The interest in desert impressions was shared by other members of the Laguna colony, who insured the survival and vitality of the Impressionist style among California landscapists well beyond the First World War.

A different desert drew Childe Hassam's attention. While working on a commission to decorate the Portland, Oregon, home of his friend and patron, Colonel C.E.S. Wood, Hassam made his initial western journey in 1904, serving effectively as Impressionism's John the Baptist in the Northwest. In the course of a return visit in 1908, his host introduced Hassam to the Harney desert, in Oregon's dry, southeastern quadrant. The area offered challenges rather different from the New England sites made familiar by his brush over the preceding several decades: in lieu of Cos Cob's weathered clapboards or Old Lyme's tidy church, there was little of man's mark in the emptiness of the vast desert; the sage-covered plateau was uninterrupted by graceful elms or ancient oaks, or colorful flowers of the sort Hassam painted in seaside gardens on the Isle of Shoals. In Harney County's "lean and stricken Land," as Wood once described it, Hassam discovered the peculiar effects of desert light and space; he was fascinated by what he described as "the limpid air, the stupendous skies, and the amethystine distances:''[25] Hassam's favorable response to the setting was doubtless shaped by his host's longtime affection for it. Again and again the poet-polymath Wood returned there

to lose myself in immensity
And to know my littleness.
To lie in the lap of my mother
And be comforted.
A basaltic cliff, embroidered with lichens,
Illumined by the sun, orange and yellow,
The work of a great painter,
Careless in the splash of his brush.[26]

During his summer's stay, Hassam was industrious with his brush, producing nearly forty paintings of the area's colorful effects, impressionist designs whose "infallible instinct for decorative arrangement" was warmly received by Portland collectors.[27]

The favorable response to Hassam's style was a harbinger of even greater rewards heaped on the artist in the following decade. In the art exhibition at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1915, Hassam was represented by thirty-eight paintings installed in a room of their own, a retrospective of his distinguished career; he was one of several contemporary Americans so honored -- although no other was shown in such quantity -- and nearly all of them were exemplars of Impressionism as adapted by native sons.[28] Such a large representation suggests that the Impressionist vogue was well established in California; yet such had not always been the case. At the turn of the century, as noted by William Gerdts, California painters had shown "little systematic interest in or absorption of Impressionist aesthetic," due to the late formation of the southern art centers and, in the more established San Francisco area, the domination of Arthur Mathews's conservative style of decoration, which "almost completely precluded an extensive investigation of Impressionism."[29]

It was a climate that was ready for conversion, and Hassam helped especially to stimulate that process. His contributions to the exposition were singled out for praise by influential critics, such as Christian Brinton. Among the Impressionists, he noted, "Only one American artist, Hassam, went as far as Monet, yet he has managed to individualize his brilliant, vibrant color appositions."[30] Hassam had brought to California this individual manner -- and his charismatic personality -- even before the Panama-Pacific Exposition. The previous year, he visited the San Francisco area and there produced a small group of landscapes, painted in the out of doors, that are distinguished by their heightened color, intense light, and sure handling. In Hill of the Sun, San Anselmo, for instance, he produced a remarkable painting of an ordinary landscape, thickly applying his pigment to model the subject glowing with golden light. Critic John Caldwell, referring to the "almost abstract landscape forms and dissonant coloring" of the "unusual" San Anselmo view, speculated that Hassam was "experimenting in California in ways that he would not have done in New York." The painter seemed to be enjoying the liberating effects of distance, "feel[ing] the freedom to experiment that is the advantage of the provincial artist."[31]

While Hassam remained the outsider in California -- albeit one unusually attuned to its peculiar environment -- other artists resident in the state likewise responded in various innovative fashions to the local conditions. The Panama-Pacific International Exposition and its showcase for Impressionist painting was at once the catalyst and the consummation of this regional proclivity. During the early decades of this century -- in burgeoning art colonies from Point Loma and Laguna to Carmel and Monterey Bay, and eventually even to the traditionalist art community of San Francisco -- the French-born style took root in the American West, transforming the continental margin in a colorful blaze of light and color.

The Panama-Pacific Exposition provided, by most accounts, the triumph of American Impressionism, both for the region and the country. In reviewing the highlights of that extravagant venture, Christian Brinton noted the dominance of the Impressionist aesthetic. He also observed with insight that by then -- two decades after Henry James's quip -- the French-born style had been naturalized in America. The critic warned that "it must not be assumed that American Impressionism and French Impressionism are identical. The American painter accepted the spirit, not the letter of the new doctrine. He adapted the division of tones to local taste and conditions and ultimately evolved a special or compromise technique."[32]

Across the United States, this acculturated style flourished, Impressionism effectively serving to familiarize the varied and unfamiliar landscape. Simultaneously, in its application to new terrains in new environmental conditions, style itself was reinvigorated, as American Impressionists experimented with western subjects with new freedom.

If the Panama-Pacific Exposition marked the nationalization of the Impressionist style, it also, in the retrospective honor accorded to its Old Masters, marked the movement's extent in time as well as space. As William Gerdts concluded, the exhibition "enshrined" the vogue: "Impressionism had become not only domesticated but historicized in America."[33] Through the elements of Impressionist style, which by 1915 enjoyed favor and fame, the landscape of "faraway:' once a raw and daunting terrain, had been made reassuringly familiar. The West had been won, by painter's brush as well as gun.

I am very grateful to the General Research Fund of the University of Kansas, which generously supported the preparation of this study, and to my research assistant, Sarah Burt, for her indefatigable efforts and important contributions to this venture.


1. Henry James, "John S. Sargent," in The Painter's Eye: Notes and Essays on the Pictorial Arts by Henry James, ed. John L. Sweeney (London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1956), 216; reprint of essay published in Picture and Text, 1893, that being an emendation of an essay that first appeared in Harper's Magazine, October 1887.

2. Lois Marie Fink, American Art in the Nineteenth-Century Paris Salons (Washington: National Museum of American Art, and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 113.

3. Cassatt showed with the Impressionists in 1879, 1880, 1881, and again in the final exhibition in 1886. For an account of the eight exhibitions, see Charles S. Moffett et al., The New Painting: Impressionism 1874-1886 (San Francisco: The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 1986).

4. William Merritt Chase, "Address of Mr. William M. Chase Before the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, January 28, 1890," The Studio 5:13 (March 1, 1890): 124.

5. Quoted in Ronald G. Pisano, Summer Afternoons: Landscape Paintings of William Merritt Chase (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1993), 13.

6. Hamlin Garland, "Impressionism:" Crumbling Idols (1894; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1960), 103.

7. The term was used by Childe Hassam to describe the artistic coterie that included his friends Weir, Twachtman, and Robinson. See Charles C. Eldredge, "Connecticut Impressionists: The Spirit of Place," Art in America 62:5 (September-October 1974): 84-90.

8. Lewis Mumford, The Golden Day (Boston: Beacon Press, 1957), xxvii.

9. Hamlin Garland, Introduction to the Palette and Cosmopolitan Art Clubs exhibition, Chicago, 1895; quoted in William H. Gerdts, American Impressionism (Seattle: Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, 1980), 104.

10. Alice Wellington Rollins, "The Three Tetons," Harper's New Monthly Magazine (May 1887): 869.

11. Richard Watson Gilder, "Culture and Progress," Scribner's (May 1872): 120.

12. Gilder, "Nature and Progress," 120-121.

13. James Bridger, quoted in Henry T. Finck, "Yellowstone Park as a Summer Resort," The Nation (September 27, 1920): 248.

14. Kipling, quoted in Schullery, ed. Old Yellowstone Days, 87.

15. E V. Hayden, "The Wonders of the West: More About the Yellowstone," Scribner's Monthly (February 1872): 392.

16. Hayden, "The Wonders of the West," 392.

17. Twachtman to William A. Wadsworth, [Geneseo, NY], September 22, 1895; The Wadsworth Family Papers, College Libraries, State University of New York College of Arts and Sciences at Geneseo. Courtesy of Lisa Peters, John Twachtman Catalogue Raisonné, Ira Spanierman Gallery, New York, N.Y.

18. Lt. Gustavus C. Doane (1870), quoted in National Parkways, A Photographic and Comprehensive Guide to Yellowstone National Park (Casper, WY: Worldwide Research and Publishing Company, 1976), 41.

19. T. Dewitt Talmadge, quoted in Hiram Martin Chittenden, The Yellowstone National Park, Historical and Descriptive (Cincinnati: Stewart & Kidd Co., 1917), 302.

20. Twachtman to Wadsworth, op. cit.

21. Rollins, "The Three Tetons," 887; Warner, quoted in Schullery, 160.

22. J. Sanford Saltus, A Week in the Yellowstone (1895), quoted in Lee H. Whittlesey, Yellowstone Place Names (Helena: Montana Historical Press, 1988), 53; Warner, quoted in Schullery, 160.

23. Doreen Bolger, "American Artists and the Japanese Print: J. Alden Weir, Theodore Robinson, and John H. Twachtman," in American Art Around 1900: Lectures in Memory of Daniel Fraad, Doreen Bolger and Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr., eds., Studies in the History of Art 37 (Washington. DC: National Gallery of Art, 1990), 20.

24. Duncan Phillips, "Twachtman -- An Appreciation," International Studio 66 (February 1919): cvi. More recently, Kathleen A. Pyne has similarly distinguished between the optical effects of Impressionism and the spiritual quality of Twachtman's late works, in which he invented "an idiosyncratic form of the Buddhist mind landscape." With reference to Twachtman's scenes of Connecticut brooks and waterfalls, Pyne drew parallels to Buddhism and Taoism; in both, water imagery figures prominently, as symbol for understanding of the world, as metaphor for transcendence. In his distinctive treatment of aquatic motifs -- whether Connecticut brooks or Yellowstone's thermal pools -- the artist was not simply capturing fleeting moments of color and atmosphere. "In insisting on the experience of merging with this slow, nearly imperceptible movement in nature, in yielding the boundaries of the self and entering this fluid state of being, Twachtman found comfort and security in his submergence in this universal mother." (Deborah Chotner, Lisa N. Peters and Kathleen A. Pyne, John Twachtman: Connecticut Landscapes (Washington: National Gallery of Art, 1989), 62.)

25. "The Poet in the Desert," in Collected Poems of Charles Erskine Wood, ed. Sara Bard Field (New York: Vanguard Press, 1949), 157; Hassam, quoted in Adeline Adams, Childe Hassam (New York: American Academy of Arts and Letters, 1938), 104.

26. "The Poet in the Desert," 158.

27. Charles Erskine Scott Wood, "The Exhibition of Paintings of Eastern Oregon by Childe Hassam," Pacific Monthly 21, no. 2 (February 1909): 144. Wood here mentions Hassam's prolific output, remembering 27 canvases and 10 to 12 smaller panels produced in the summer of 1908.

28. Other one-man rooms were devoted to Edmund Tarbell, Edward Redfield, Frank Duveneck, William Merritt Chase, Gari Melchers and John Singer Sargent; similar recognition was given to three deceased artists, James McNeill Whistler, John Twachtman, and William Keith of California.

29. William H. Gerdts, American Impressionism (Seattle: Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, 1980), 106.

30. Christian Brinton, Impressions of the Art at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, with a Chapter on the San Diego Exposition and an Introductory Essay on the Modern Spirit in Contemporary Painting (New York: John Lane Co., 1916), 15-16.

31. John Caldwell, "California Impressionism: A Critical Essay," in Impressionism, The California View: Paintings 1890-1930 (Oakland, CA: Oakland Museum 1981). n.p.

32. Brinton, 16.

33 William H. Gerdts, American Impressionism (New York: Abbeville, 1984), 301, 306.


About the author:

At the time of publication of this essay, Charles C. Eldredge was the Hall Distinguished Professor of American Art at the University of Kansas. As former director of the National Museum of American Art, he curated numerous exhibitions and authored their accompanying catalogues, including the groundbreaking American Imagination and Symbolist Painting (1979). His most recent book on the art of Georgia O'Keeffe was published in conjunction with a major exhibition, Georgia O'Keeffe: American and Modern (Yale University Press 1993).


Read more about the Georgia Museum of Art in Resource Library Magazine

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 6/7/11

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