Major new volume on the life and work of 19th-century artist John Leslie Breck (1860–1899), the founder of American Impressionism
Born at sea off Hong Kong in 1860, John Leslie Breck studied in Germany and in Paris. In the summer of 1887 he and some of his fellow American artists visited Giverny, where they met and befriended Claude Monet and subsequently explored the new approach to painting that Monet had helped to pioneer. After returning to the USA from France Breck created a large body of particularly beautiful paintings of New England, some of the earliest Impressionist views of California, and what may be the first extended series of American Impressionist paintings of Venice. Many of these paintings are published here for the first time.
This volume includes approximately 70 of Breck’s finest works, drawn from public and private collections. In addition it features more than 70 additional comparative images, including details, unpublished historic photographs, and paintings by Monet and by leading American impressionists including Joseph Rodefer DeCamp, Arthur Wesley Dow, Willard Metcalf, Lilla Cabot Perry, and Theodore Robinson, a chronology and appendices. Essays chart Breck’s life and career, examine the influence on his work of his stay in Giverny, explore his Venetian paintings, and place him in context within both the US and European art worlds of his time.
“This is the book every artist deserves. It is exemplary in the way it illustrates all of Breck’s outstanding works, gives us a much-needed, detailed account of his life in Giverny including his relationship to Monet and his step-daughters, explains his family and his ties to Boston, expands our knowledge by illustrating his work in Venice, Santa Barbara, and Gloucester, and forthrightly examines his good times and his troubled ones.”—Theodore E. Stebbins Jr., formerly curator of American Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Harvard Art Museums.
“John Leslie Breck: American Impressionist is a revelation. Never before have so many of Breck’s finest paintings been seen together. It’s a must for anyone who loves Impressionism.” —George T.M. Shackelford, deputy director, Kimbell Art Museum.
Published in conjunction the exhibition John Leslie Breck: American Impressionist, Mint Museum Uptown, Charlotte, NC: September 18, 2021– January 2, 2022; Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis, TN: January 22–March 27, 2022; Figge Art Museum, Davenport, IA: May 28–August 28, 2022.
Katherine Bourguignon is a curator at the Terra Foundation for American Art.
Jeffrey R. Brown is a retired art dealer and the former curator of American Art at the Indianapolis Museum. of Art.
Erica E. Hirshler is the Croll Senior Curator of American Paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Royal W. Leith is a writer and an independent art historian specializing in late nineteenth-century American art.
Jonathan Stuhlman is the senior curator of American Art at The Mint Museum.
Table of Contents
- Sponsor’s Statement by Charles Bowman
- Foreword by Todd A. Herman
- Acknowledgments by Jonathan Stuhlman
- John Leslie Breck and American Impressionism: An Introspective Historiography by Erica E. Hirshler
- John Leslie Breck His Life and Career by Royal W. Leith and Jeffrey R. Brown
- Artistic Beginnings in Giverny by Katherine Bourguignon
- The Exhibition That Never Was: John Leslie Breck’s Paintings of Venice by Royal W. Leith
- “A Great Genius,” Yet a Man Apart: John Leslie Breck in Context by Jonathan Stuhlman
- Appendix 1 A Week in Giverny: July 1888 by Royal W. Leith
- Appendix 2 Song Lyrics by John Leslie Breck
- Appendix 3 The Day: On Seeing John Leslie Breck’s “Studies of an Autumn Day” A Poem by Edward Breck
- Chronology by Jeffrey R. Brown and Royal W. Leith
- Exhibition History by Jeffrey R. Brown and Royal W. Leith
- Exhibition Checklist
- Photo Credits