American Impressionism

Impressionism emerged in France in the 1860s as a style characterized by painting in the outdoors using loose brushwork and bright colors. This type of “plein air” painting showed the effects of light and atmosphere. American painters and collectors who spent time in Paris in the late 19th century introduced the new style to the United States over the course of the next generation. The style would remain popular in American art into the 1910s and 1920s.

American painters who adopted an Impressionist technique are generally different from their European counterparts by retaining more structure and realism. Subject matter, rather than pure color, remained the Americans’ focus. The founding in 1897 by American Impressionist painters of The Ten American Painters was a rebellion by established artists against conservatism. They exhibited annually as a group until 1919. By then, Impressionism was an established part of American culture. Groups all across the country, from Indiana to California, developed identifiable Impressionist “schools” in the first decades of the 20th century.


  • Horseneck Falls
    ca. 1900
    oil on canvas
    John Henry Twachtman
    born Cincinnati, Ohio 1853
    died Gloucester, Mass. 1902
    Museum purchase made possible by the Ella E. Kirven Charitable Lead Trust for Acquisitions 97.4

    The rushing waterfall of Horseneck Brook is almost abstracted because of the artist’s use of heavy paint applied by busy brushstrokes.
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  • Pelham Lane
    ca. 1902
    oil on canvas
    Julian Alden Weir
    born West Point, N.Y. 1852
    died New York, N.Y. 1919
    Gift of The A. and M. L. Illges Memorial Foundation 77.35

    Julian Alden Weir’s choppy brushstrokes and thick application of paint infuse the landscape with the color and light of Impressionism.
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  • The Thawing Brook
    oil on canvas
    Willard Leroy Metcalf
    born Lowell, Mass. 1858
    died New York, N.Y. 1925
    Gift of Jack Melchers Passailaigue in memory of his late devoted wife, Mary Flournoy Passailaigue 89.16

    The Thawing Brook depicts Blow-Me-Down Brook, located in Plainfield, New Hampshire, where Metcalf spent many winters and summers after 1909.
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