July 21, 2006

Americans in Paris 1860-1900

I had the incredible good fortune to be in Boston last week and to be able to visit the Museum of Fine Arts' current blockbuster exhibition "Americans in Paris 1860-1900". What a delight! Room after room filled with the most gorgeous paintings by American artists who had found inspiration in Second Empire Paris.

Americans have always had a love affair with Paris. For many Post Civil War artists, the lure of "Springtime in Paris" was irresistible. They came, they painted, they flourished and some of them stayed. Both men and women enjoyed the Bohemian atmosphere that encouraged creativity and expressions of beauty.

We are all the beneficiaries of this watershed period. From Whistler's iconic "Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 1: Portrait of the Artist's Mother", to the splendidly decadent "Madame X" by John Singer Sargent there is something wonderful for everyone. From the blissful domestic scene in Mary Cassatt's "Mother and Child" to Winslow Homer's disturbing "A Summer Night" we are treated to a wide range of intimate glimpses into the private worlds of these artists. Filling in the All-Star list of American painters is a fine group of works by lesser known but extremely talented artists such as John White Alexander, Cecilia Beaux, Ellen Day Hale and Julius LeBlanc Stewart, to name just a few.

One particular favorite of mine was a group of seven postcard sized oil paintings by Maurice Prendergast. These Impressionistic depictions of figures in a variety of Parisian settings are absolutely exquisite.

If you can't make it to Boston to see this show, don't despair! The final venue is the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, starting in mid-October and running through January 2007. Please, make an effort to see this exhibition - you'll thank me!

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