French Impressionism and Boston at the Norton
Post #744 • March 2, 2006, 6:41 PM • 3 Comments
Bostonians seriously collected Impressionist works even as the artists were making them. Thus a rich Impressionist collection landed at the Boston MFA, one whose earliest acquisitions predate those of the Met. A selection of the Boston holdings, 57 of them, are on display at the Norton, but only through this weekend, so get up there.
Interest in the new style reached such a fervor that Boston produced a few Impressionists of her own. Some of these artists were collectors and advisors to the board of the MFA, bringing first-hand expertise to the act of acquisition. (I strain to come up with an analogous contemporary example.) The Americans didn't get it on the scale of Monet, but the show has a sweet image of a washerwoman by Frederic Porter Vinton, and two works by William Morris Hunt, one of which depicts Gloucester Harbor in a manner that would have given Manet a run for his money. Then, of course, there was Sargent, who absorbed what Giverny had to offer and poured it into exquisite portraiture.
One lesser-known name deserves special mention: Stanislas Henri Jean Cazin, a terrific painter whom I had never heard of. But all the heavyweights of the late Barbizon and early Impressionism are there, starting with Millet, and including Diaz de la Peña, Boudin, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Hassam, Monet, and more.
Monet comes off especially strong, with twelve paintings ranging from snowy landscapes to summery outdoor portraits. His dedication to the pure act of seeing and his love of paint practically shine off of the walls, and you have to hand it to those 19th Century Bostonians - they knew a good thing when they saw it.