Americans in Paris wrap-up
Post #826 • July 10, 2006, 3:16 PM • 28 Comments
I can think of legitimate criticisms of Americans in Paris, but they hardly seem to matter after spending long years in the sunny, yet benighted provinces of South Florida. Even to be able to complain about this show is a luxury. Concentrating on portraits, interiors, and cityscapes of Paris would have produced a tighter, more thematically cohesive exhibition, even though it would have knocked out lovely things like a Metcalf view of Gloucester Harbor. But what the hell, it sprawls a bit wider than it might, and consequently we get the major MFA holdings next to, at worst, a lot of context. The show includes artists at work in fields far from the city, or cashing in on the demand for Orientalist subjects derived from North Africa, or using the new Impressionist modality back at home in New Hampshire, all in all making Paris seem like a rather large place. I wouldn't say that it caused me to suffer. Painting this good, in this quantity, justifies a loose curatorial approach, which shows how far the ripples extended from the boulders that the French dropped into the pond of art. New discoveries for me included Mary Fairchild, whose 1886 portrait of one Mlle. S. H. should have been placed in the vicinity of Whistler's Mother so it could chase it up a tree, and Robert Vonnoh, whose 1888 study of poppies takes Impressionist freedom to an extent that recalls floral studies by Nolde. (Neither are pictured below.) And the familiar pieces only ever look better.