Charles Webster Hawthorne, “A Study in White,” circa 1900, oil on canvas, 36 x 22 inches, Reading Public Museum

From the 1880s through the 1940s, many artist colonies sprang up around the United States, aiding the rapid development and appreciation of American Impressionism. One East Coast museum is delving into this story through more than 50 remarkable paintings.

“American Impressionism: The Lure of the Artists’ Colony” is a fantastic exhibition of more than 50 paintings, on view through November 12 at the Knoxville Museum of Art (KMA) in Tennessee. Featuring works by monumental painters such as William Merritt Chase, Childe Hassam, Ernest Lawson, Julian Alden Weir, John Twachtman, Chauncey Ryder, Frank W. Benson, and William Paxton, the exhibition seeks to illuminate the story of how Impressionism made its way from Paris, France, across the Atlantic, and into the hearts and minds of American artists and collectors. In particular, the exhibition draws focus to the many artist colonies that sprang up across the United States and how these groups became sanctuaries for Impressionism’s development.

Robert Reid, “Summer Breezes,” circa 1910-20, oil on canvas, 33 3/4 x 39 inches, Reading Public Museum
Frank W. Benson, “On Grand River,” circa 1930, oil on canvas, 36 x 44 inches, Reading Public Museum

The exhibition will also highlight the importance of Knoxville as an artist colony. Via the museum, “Many of the nationally prominent artists represented in this exhibition have ties to East Tennessee and the KMA’s ongoing display ‘Higher Ground: A Century of the Visual Arts in East Tennessee.’ More than a dozen participated in large art exhibitions held in conjunction with Knoxville’s 1910 and 1911 Appalachian Expositions, and the 1913 National Conservation Exposition. Their paintings appeared alongside those of several East Tennessee artists represented in ‘Higher Ground,’ such as Catherine Wiley, Lloyd Branson, Adelia Lutz, Charles Krutch, and Hugh Tyler, to name a few. These sprawling and ambitious exhibitions were designed with the goal of bringing the ‘best contemporary art in America’ to people of the region. The displays highlighted art currents of the day, and allowed East Tennessee artists to demonstrate their proficiency in a national context.

Guy Carleton Wiggins, “Gloucester at Twilight,” 1916, oil on canvas, 12 x 16 inches, Reading Public Museum
Edward Willis Redfield, “Winter in the Valley,” circa 1920s, oil on canvas, 36 x 50 inches, Reading Public Museum

“Among other ties, John F. Carlson served as a juror for the 1913 Expo art exhibition along with Knoxville impressionist painter Catherine Wiley. Robert Reid was one of Wiley’s art instructors during her studies in New York, and Mary Cassatt’s intimate domestic scenes inspired Wiley’s career-long interest in depicting women and children. Because of these and other connections, this exhibition offers a broader national lens through which viewers can assess the work of Wiley, Branson, Lutz, Krutch, Tyler and other ‘Higher Ground’ artists who also experimented with Impressionism.”

To learn more, visit the Knoxville Museum of Art.

This article was featured in PleinAir Today, a weekly e-newsletter from PleinAir magazine. To start receiving PleinAir Today for free, click here.

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Editor PleinAir Today, Andrew Webster
Andrew Webster is the Editor of Plein Air Today and works as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.

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