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Seductive Paris: American Painters in the City of Light (1855—1920)

Weekend All-Day Lecture/Seminar

Saturday, July 31, 2021 - 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET
Code: 1M2138
This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
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Twilight Confidences, by Cecilia Beaux, 1888 (Georgia Museum of Art/University of Georgia)

In the late 19th century, Paris was the only place to be for any self-respecting, aspiring American artist. The city beckoned young painters like Whistler and Sargent to study with masters like Gerome, Cabanel, Bonnat, and Bouguereau.  It was a heady time to be an artist and a generation of American painters took full advantage. The American art world was never the same.

Art historian Bonita Billman highlights Paris’s ascension as the center of the art world, the French atelier system, and the masters who trained American artists. They returned home filled with new, creative ideas they shared with their fellow artists and students.

9:30—10:45 a.m. French teachers and American Students

Some French academic painters were popular with American art students for their willingness to share their ideas and techniques, including Carolus-Duran and Jean-Leon Gerome. A few American artists resisted the French influence on their work while others embraced it.

11 a.m.—12:15 p.m. Summers in the Country: American Painters in Brittany and Normandy

The American artists in Pont-Aven focused on painting genre scenes of the local peasantry; those working in Giverny embraced the light Monet used so beautifully in his impressionist paintings.

12:15—1:15 p.m. Break

1:15—2:30 p.m. Domestic Bliss: Painters of Genre Scenes

Expatriates Mary Cassatt, Lilla Cabot Perry, and Cecilia Beaux, among others, were inspired to paint scenes of everyday life and domestic interiors. Children, flowers, and quotidian tasks are frequent themes in their work.

2:45—4 p.m. Impressionism in America

Childe Hassam, Theodore Robinson, Robert Henri, and other artists helped to popularize the new impressionist style in this country. Expatriate painters John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt, and James Whistler encouraged American collectors to buy impressionist paintings.

Billman is an independent lecturer, retired from the department of art and art history at Georgetown University.

World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1 credit*

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*Enrolled participants in the World Art History Certificate Program receive 1 elective credit. Not yet enrolled? Learn about the program, its benefits, and how to register here.