Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

Left photo: David Graham, Center photo: Nathan Benn

Philadelphia, PA

(215) 972-7600


John Twachtman: An American Impressionist

October 16, 1999 - January 2, 2000


Organized by the High Museum of Art, this retrospective of John Henry Twachtman, the first in more than 30 years, features paintings covering four periods of the artist's production: Early Works; European Period; Connecticut Years; and Gloucester, Late Period. (left:Mother and Child, c.1893, oil on canvas, 25 1/8 x 30 1/8 inches, Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, Jacob Stern Family Loan Collection)

Trained in Munich and Paris, John Twachtman (1853-1902) returned to the United States to become a distinguished and influential Impressionist painter. This retrospective explores Twachtman's development as an artist through 50 oils and pastels. (right: Sailing in the Mist, c. 1890, oil on canvas, 30 1/2 x 30 1/2 inches, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Joseph E. Temple Fund)

Arguably, the most sophisticated and influential of the American Impressionists, Twachtman was closely linked to the French Impressionists, particularly Claude Monet, to whom his work was often compared. Poetic, imaginative, and experimental, Twachtman's shimmering waterside views and wintry landscapes are highly regarded for their advanced design and brilliant color.

Organized chronologically and thematically, the exhibition will be divided into four sections: the early Venice and New York years; study in France and Holland; mature years in Connecticut; and the late Gloucester, Massachusetts, period.

Early in his career, the Cincinnati, Ohio-born Twachtman employed the dark palette associated with the Munich Academy, where he had studied under the direction of the expatriate American artist Frank Duveneck in the late 1870s. (A masterful example of Duveneck's cosmopolitan approach, The Turkish Page, is a centerpiece of the Pennsylvania Academy's permanent collection.) By the early '80s, however, Twachtman had lightened his palette. This shift was largely in response to the tonalist work of James McNeill Whistler and the plein-air approach of the French Impressionists, which Twachtman had encountered in Paris. (right: Wild Cherry Tree, c. 1901, oil on canvas, 30 x 30 inches, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO)

In the late 1880s, rural domestic life served as Twachtman's primary subject matter. And by the mid-1890s, his career was fully identified with the Impressionist movement in this country. In 1897, he became a founding member of "The Ten American Painters" (or "The Ten"), a group of artists who seceded from New York's prestigious Society of American Artists and exhibited together for the next 20 years. Of "The Ten," J. Alden Weir, Childe Hassam, Willard Metcalf, and Twachtman were united in their rejection of descriptive art for more subjective, innovative interpretations of nature. Twachtman created some of his boldest works for inclusion in this group's landmark exhibitions. (left: On the Terrace, c. 1897, oil on canvas, 25 1/4 x 30 1/8 inches, National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Gift of John Gellatly)

Significantly, the artist's role as one of the leading practitioners of the avant-garde style was acknowledged early on by the Pennsylvania Academy: in 1895 he was awarded a Temple Gold Medal for the best painting in the annual exhibition. Moreover, Twachtman's works were regularly featured in the institution's annuals from 1893 to 1909, seven years after his premature death. On this occasion, the artist's "Ten" colleague Thomas W. Dewing recognized Twachtman's significance by describing him as the "most modern spirit...too modern, probably, to be fully recognized or appreciated at present; but his place will be recognized in the future." An illustrated catalogue, providing the first in-depth, scholarly assessment of Twachtman's career accompanies the exhibition. (left: In the Sunlight, c. 1893, oil on canvas, Private Collection)

After the John Twachtman: An American Impressionist closes at the Academy, it will travel to its closing venue, the High Museum of Art, Atlanta (February 26 through May 21, 2000). (right: Arques-la-Bataille, 1885, oil on canvas, 60 x 78 7/8 inches, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Morris K. Jessup Fund,1968)

John Twachtman: An American Impressionist is organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta. The exhibition and catalogue are made possible by The Henry Luce Foundation. Generous support is also provided by the National Endowment for the Arts. In Philadelphia, the exhibition is sponsored by the Women's Committee of PAFA.

Read more about the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts 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.

rev. 10/18/10

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