PORTLAND, MAINE.- This fall the Portland Museum of Art will present an in-depth study of Impressionist landscape painting. Landscapes from the Age of Impressionism is an exhibition of more than 40 masterpieces from the Brooklyn Museum in New York. The exhibition features both European and American painters including Claude Monet, Eugène-Louis Boudin, John Singer Sargent, George Inness, Frederick Childe Hassam, Camille Pissarro, and Gustave Courbet. On view from September 25, 2008 through January 4, 2009, Landscapes from the Age of Impressionism explores the unities of style, color, and light in this all-important international movement.
Among the earliest works in the exhibition are Charles-François Daubignys The River Seine at Mantes (1856) and Gustave Courbets Isolated Rock (1862), which reveal the impact of plein-air sketching practice on landscape art of the period. Many of the painters of the Barbizon School of French landscape painting executed on-site, preparatory sketches that were carried over into larger, more carefully designed paintings later completed in their studios.
Heirs to this plein-air tradition, French Impressionists Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro, and Gustave Caillebotte painted highly elaborated impressionsseemingly spontaneous, rapidly executed landscapes and cityscapes that prompted the name of their movement. Monet is represented in the exhibition by several works, including The Islets at Port-Villez (1897), and Houses of Parliament, Effect of Sunlight (1903). After selecting a subject, Monet positioned himself before it for hours over a series of days, if not months, substituting one canvas for another as dictated by changing lighting and atmospheric effects, and producing a series of works devoted to the same subject under different conditions.
Following in the footsteps of the French archetypes, many American painters sought inspiration in Paris and its environs, attending French art academies and frequenting the painting locations made famous by their Barbizon and Impressionist predecessors. Some of the Americans had direct contact with leading French landscape painters, sharing landscape sites or seeking informal guidance from admired mentors.
The majority of the works by American painters on display depict American themes, demonstrating the eagerness of these artists to retain their progressive aesthetics after returning home, and to update the native scene in vibrant, innovative canvases. This led to the appearance of local beaches, factories, tenements, and notable subjects such as Central Park in paintings distinguished by brilliant colors and lively, broken brushwork, including William Glackenss Bathing at Bellport, Long Island (1912), Julian Alden Weirs Willimantic Thread Factory (1893), Robert Spencers The White Tenement (1913), and Willard Leroy Metcalfs Early Spring Afternoon, Central Park (1911).
In keeping with its long tradition of collecting French and American Barbizon and Impressionist landscapes, the Brooklyn Museum has recently added to its outstanding holdings Hassams Poppies on the Isles of Shoals (1890), acquired in 1985, and Caillebottes The Railroad Bridge at Argenteuil (1885 or 1887), acquired in 1999, both of which are included in the exhibition.