Americans in Paris

WhistlerWhen today we look for ‘American art’ we find it mainly in Paris. When we find it out of Paris, we at least find a good deal of Paris in it.” —Henry James, 1887

Over 100 masterpieces including Whistler’s Mother and Sargent’s Madame X are now on display in the exhibit Americans in Paris, 1860-1900, at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

From about 1860 to 1900, hundreds of American painters traveled to the French capital to enroll in art schools and to establish their artistic reputations. John Singer Sargent, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Mary Cassatt, and Winslow Homer are only a handful of the artists who dreamed of showing their work at the annual Paris Salon and watched intently as new styles such as Impressionism began to take hold.

The exhibition explores paintings Americans made and displayed in Paris including images of the city by painters such as Childe Hassam and Henry Ossawa Tanner, as well as depictions of Americans “at home” in Paris by Cassatt and others. The exhibition also includes views of several popular summer art colonies, including Giverny and Britanny and explores how Americans adapted distinctly French styles to paint American subjects.

The beautifully illustrated catalog for the exhibit traces the role of American artists in Paris from the Salon des Refusés in 1863 to the emergence of a uniquely American style of painting at the turn of the century. It includes essays written by notable scholars who explore what the artists retained of their experiences. The catalog also discusses the significance of the Expositions Universelles, the French view of American artists in Paris, and the role the artists played in shaping the great American collections of modern French painting. The essays are followed by the artists’ biographies, an illustrated, annotated list of works, and a complete bibliography.

The exhibition is organized by the National Gallery, London and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in association with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities; it will be on display at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston until September 24, 2006, and then at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, from October 17, 2006 – January 28, 2007.

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