American Impressionism: A New Vision

American Impressionism: A New Vision runs throughout the entirety of the fringe and can provide a blissful escape from the flyering and madness of the Royal Mile. The walk to the hosting Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art takes one into the recesses of the West End of Edinburgh far away from the bustle of the city centre.

Grainstacks Snow Effect (1891) stood out as my personal, radiant favourite. Monet seems to capture beautifully the hoary, bucolic aspects of his scene with perfect subtlety.

This exhibition collects together some of America's foremost impressionists: Mary Cassatt, James McNeill Whistler and John Singer Sargeant, as well as the stalwart of Impressionism, Claude Monet himself. The American impressionists, we are told throughout the exhibition, draw heavily on Monet, many of them, including Sargeant who went to join him in his artistic retreat in Normandy. And even though only four pieces are exhibited by Monet we are immediately able to realise why he holds such magnitude.

Grainstacks Snow Effect (1891) stood out as my personal, radiant favourite. Monet seems to capture beautifully the hoary, bucolic aspects of his scene with perfect subtlety. From a distance the snow radiates its way out of the piece yet upon closer inspection an employment of lilacs and purples gives the snow this vibrant quality. While it may seem at times a bit sad that I was left gazing at the Monet while standing in an exhibition attempting to display great works of American Impressionism, the European's work can just as easily be used to understand the influential role that continental art played to these Americans. William Merritt Chase's words are inscribed on the walls of the exhibition: 'My God, I would rather go to Europe than go to Heaven.' And while the comment is obviously chosen for comedic effect it does help to highlight how burgeoning Impressionism in Europe was of incalculable importance to these artists.

There are several other works which any attendee should seek out. First of these should be John Leslie Breck's interpretation of the haystacks motif. These twelve small paintings each display the same vista but at different times of day. Individually one or two stand out, but their power is in their collection. They were apparently painted over the course of three days and they are a brilliant group of works to be viewed together. Sargeant's Young Boy on a Beach (1877) is a perfectly composed small portrait, the boys face remains clear at a distance yet his eyes are muddled and blurred on closer inspection. It displays an emotive mixture of intimacy and distance, which although dichotomous, seem harmonious in this work. Cassatt's Autumn (1880) was another of my favourites. The deep rich colours of the lady's cape are at odds with her traditional, stifling bonnet. It is as if Cassatt sees the cape as the subject's internal being visualised.

Head over to this impressive exhibition to experience the American Impressionists and the European Master who inspired them.

Reviews by Duncan Grindall

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The Blurb

This breathtaking exhibition traces the discovery of Impressionism by American artists in the late 19th century. Divided into four groups, the first includes major figures such as Mary Cassatt, Sargent and Whistler; artists who lived in Paris and were close friends of the French Impressionists, especially Degas and Monet. The second, American artists trained in Paris and/or settled near Monet at Giverny in 1887. The third worked in the USA, and includes Chase, Childe Hassam and Theodore Robinson. The last group, The Ten, championed Impressionist art practices in America. Not to be missed!

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