Monet, Corot, Inness and Hassam in New Newark Museum Exhibition

NEWARK, NJ – Impressionism flourished in nineteenth-century France and the United States as one of the most powerful forms of artistic expression and continues to draw the appreciation and admiration of art lovers throughout the world.

With the opening on September 17 of Paths to Impressionism: French and American Landscape Paintings from the Worcester Art Museum, a forty-two painting exhibition featuring masterworks by Claude Monet, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, George Inness and Childe Hassam, The Newark Museum provides an opportunity to examine one of the most popular styles in the history of art. When combined with visits to the Museum’s permanent Picturing America galleries and its concurrent exhibition, Small but Sublime: Intimate Views by Durand, Bierstadt and Inness, visitors are treated to a compelling overview of the century’s major developments in landscape painting.

By the end of the nineteenth century, Impressionism had become the avant-garde painting style in America. According to The Newark Museum Director Mary Sue Price, “both the Worcester Art Museum and The Newark Museum built impressive collections of nineteenth-century landscape paintings by being in the forefront of acquiring American art.”

“The landscapes exhibited in Worcester’s Paths to Impressionism as well as those in The Newark Museum’s Picturing America and Small but Sublime provide a remarkable survey of the dramatic changes in the interpretation of nature that occurred during the nineteenth century,” Price said.

“The inspiring masterworks in Paths to Impressionism convey artists’ personal response to their environment,” commented Dr. Holly Pyne Connor, Curator of 19th-Century American Art at The Newark Museum. “In these beautiful paintings, nature is transformed into great art.”

Beginning in the 1820s, a number of artists abandoned Paris and its increasing urbanization and industrialization, retreating to Barbizon, a village near the ancient forest of Fontainebleau. These artists, who would later be referred to as the Barbizon School, painted outdoors (en plein–air), creating nostalgic and idealized views of peasants and their way of life. The Barbizon artists attempted to capture changing light and weather conditions, creating timeless scenes that frequently convey feelings of tranquility. For artists and their urban patrons, landscape paintings provided a welcome relief from everyday realities. During the second half of the century, these French artists influenced American painters.

By the 1870s, Paris was the international art capital of the world, attracting numbers of American artists. Upon their return home, these artists adopted the themes and techniques of the Barbizon School. Using fluid and loose brushstrokes, they painted evocative rural landscapes, frequently employing muted colors. Their canvases suggested nature rather than illustrating it, selecting twilight and sunset scenes and the season of autumn to convey feelings of melancholy and tranquility.

The contrast between Barbizon and Impressionist paintings is clearly evident in Paths to Impressionism. While Barbizon art focused on a way of life that was vanishing, the French Impressionists, who flourished in the middle and late nineteenth century, were intent on painting scenes of modern life, frequently showing landscapes in transition from rural to industrial. The Impressionists’ palette, with its brilliant colors applied in broken and highly visible brushstrokes, with pure colors placed side-by-side to create a shimmering effect, is different from the muted tones of the Barbizon School. The brilliant light in Impressionist paintings dissolves the solidity of the forms while their scenes appear informal and casually composed.

Founded in 1909, The Newark Museum has been committed to collecting contemporary American art. In 1912, the Museum purchased The South Gorge, Appledore, Isles of Shoal (the Gorge) by Childe Hassam, the foremost American Impressionist. The painting was completed the year it was acquired. Hassam frequently worked in series, depicting multiple versions of the same or similar subjects, as did Claude Monet. Water Lilies, Water Landscape, one of Monet’s many paintings of the subject, will be on display in the exhibition as will Hassam’s painting.

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