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Impressionisms: The Global Nineteenth Century

Mar 27 2024–ongoing

Seattle Art Museum

The works in this gallery reveal continuities between European and American art over the course of the long 19th century, a historical period spanning from the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789 to the beginning of World War I in 1914. During this time, the rigid conventions, theoretical foundations, and elitist content of academicism were loosening their hold, threatened by a new, cosmopolitan, and more inclusive generation of artists who preferred collaboration and mutuality over the Academy’s strict hierarchical structure.

Working in networks with transnational reach, artists experimented with radical pictorial strategies, giving focus to the world around them in an adaptable, extemporaneous style loosely termed “Impressionism.” American artists such as Childe Hassam and Willard Metcalf, often working alongside French painters such as Lucien Pissarro and Claude Monet, took to the countryside and city streets to respond directly to nature and public life, while French, American, and Dutch artists alike—including Gustave Caillebotte, Mary Cassatt, Vilhelm Hammershøi, and Berthe Morisot—captured the private realm of domestic spaces. The American painter William Merritt Chase and his French counterpart Victoria Dubourg delved deeply into the minutiae of the modern world, capturing the ephemerality of ordinary victuals, flora, and other objects using little more than brushwork and color. Indeed, the story of 19th-century art is at once intimate, local, and global, shaped by observation, invention, and exchange on the part of artists active on both sides of the Atlantic.

Image: The Banjo Lesson, ca. 1893, Mary Cassatt, American, 1844-1926, drypoint and aquatint, with additions in monotype on pale, blue-green laid paper, sheet: 15 7/8 x 10 1/4 in., plate: 11 3/4 x 9 1/4 in., frame: 23 x 19 in., Gift from a private collection, 2003.126, photo: Susan Cole.

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