A new and dazzling show, “Divided Light and Color: American Impressionist Landscapes”, is at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich. On view until January 29 are some two-dozen oil paintings by 16 artists, including Childe Hassam, Theodore Robinson, John Henry Twachtman, and William Merritt Chase. Works by artists from both of the Connecticut Impressionist art colonies, Cos Cob and Old Lyme, are represented.
By Arthur Stampleman
A new and dazzling show, “Divided Light and Color: American Impressionist Landscapes”, is at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich. On view until January 29 are some two-dozen oil paintings by 16 artists, including Childe Hassam, Theodore Robinson, John Henry Twachtman, and William Merritt Chase. Works by artists from both of the Connecticut Impressionist art colonies, Cos Cob and Old Lyme, are represented. The exhibit is drawn from works loaned by local collectors and New York galleries and the Bruce’s own collection. Among the paintings are several acquired by the museum soon after its founding a century ago.
Although only one American, Mary Cassatt, showed his or her works in the official Impressionist Exhibitions in Paris (1874-1886), there were many American artists who trained in Europe and worked in a similar style: the use of short, thick brushstrokes, with colors applied side-by-side, to capture the play of natural light.
At the entrance to the exhibit at the Bruce, visitors will find the one Chase work, Sunset at Shinnecock Hills (Long Island), c. 1895. It portrays a little girl facing the viewer in the middle of a hilly field at sunset. William Merritt Chase (1849-1916) received some training in Paris, but mostly availed himself of the more serious training in Munich. He was a master of various techniques, including both Realism and Impressionism. Sunset is clearly an Impressionist work — painted outdoors, catching the effects of light with an informal, unstructured quality.
Childe Hassam (1859-1935) received his European training in Paris, and his work is more consistently Impressionistic than Chase’s. Cos Cob views are featured in two of the works in the show. Indian Summer in Colonial Days, 1899, with its figures in colonial dress, was painted for a competition organized by a local historical organization. Although Hassam went on to become one of the most successful American Impressionist artists, this early effort took just second prize. As Hassam became more successful, he experimented with different media. The one pastel in the Bruce show is by him.
Theodore Robinson (1852-1896) spent most of his relatively short career in France, where he became a member of Monet’s inner circle. In fact, in 1884 he moved into a house next door to Monet’s in Giverny, where he painted some of his finest works. The lone work by Robinson on display, Apple Blossoms, is a small close-up painting of a leafy branch of an apple tree with an out-of-focus landscape as background. It reflects the influence Japanese art had on the Impressionist movement.
The two landscapes by John Henry Twachtman (1853-1902) show his transition from a loosely brushed, shadowy technique taught at Munich and the Barbizon-like approach to the Impressionist style. The first is L’Etang, c. 1884, the second Winter Landscape, from the early 1890s. Twachtman was less successful than some of his fellow American Impressionists. Indeed, his artist friends chipped in to pay for the frame on the later painting, so it could be displayed in an exhibit of American Impressionists.
The Bruce Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 to 5, and Sunday from 1 to 5. Docent tours are offered most Fridays at 12:30 p.m. For information, visit brucemuseum.org.