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Collecting Impressionism: Telfair’s Modern Vision traces the early 20th-century footsteps of noted Telfair art advisor Gari Melchers (1860–1932) as he traveled the country and the globe identifying remarkable examples of the avant-garde art movement and giving them a permanent home in Savannah.

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America  France Germany

American Impressionism

 

From its origins in Paris in the 1870s, Impressionism made its way to the United States due in large part to the American artists who flocked to Europe, studying at one of the many schools that welcomed American students.  

The American Impressionists embraced many of the qualities that distinguished the style of painting, including a desire to record fleeting effects of sunlight and atmosphere, the use of bright areas of unblended color, thickly-applied paint, and the selection of simple landscapes and scenes of everyday life rather than narrative history paintings. Some scholars argue that American Impressionists were less likely than their French counterparts to fully abandon their academic training, creating paintings with less fluid compositions.

The inclusion of American artists of any kind in Telfair’s collection is a result of the influence of art advisor Gari Melchers. Although his predecessor at the museum had almost exclusively collected works by European artists, Melchers deliberately divided his acquisitions between European artists and their American counterparts, explaining, “You see my ardent desire is to work in an American picture as often as possible.” Melchers was true to his word, purchasing important paintings by American artists Childe Hassam (acquired in 1907), Ernest Lawson (1907), George Hitchcock (1908), Frederick Carl Frieseke (1910), Charles Webster Hawthorne (1921), Willard Metcalf (1926), and others.

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William Merritt Chase (American, 1849-1916), October, c. 1902, Body color and pastel on canvas, museum purchase, 1917.2

William Merritt Chase was a critical figure in the development of Impressionist painting in America. An influential art instructor as well as a practicing artist, he was an early proponent of painting outdoors, en plein air, as the French Impressionists did. This philosophy informed his teachings at the summer school he founded in Shinnecock Hills on the eastern end of Long Island, where October was created. This pastel depicts two tiny figures, possibly Chase’s daughters, against an expansive landscape that is flat and treeless, with scruffy patches of sea grass and small blue pools of water. It was purchased for Telfair’s collection by Gari Melchers in the estate sale held after Chase’s death in 1916.

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Frederick Carl Frieske, (American, 1874–1939), Reflections (Marcelle), by 1909, oil on canvas, museum purchase, 1910.10

Reflections (Marcelle) is representative of Frieseke’s many paintings of nudes lounging in elegant boudoirs, which were often decorated with ornate fabrics and rugs. The model,
a redhead named Marcelle who frequently posed for Frieseke, gazes serenely at her reflection. The viewer is placed in close proximity to her carefully rendered figure, which incorporates the serpentine curve embraced by centuries of artists as a hallmark of beauty. This work is one of only two paintings of nudes acquired for Telfair by Gari Melchers. The other, La toilette d’Herminie, is also on view in this exhibition.

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Frederick Carl Frieseke (American, 1874–1939), The Garden Umbrella, by 1910, oil on canvas, bequest of Elizabeth Millar (Mrs. Bernice Frost) Bullard, 1942.7

Of the five paintings by Frederick Frieseke in Telfair’s collection, The Garden Umbrella bears the closest stylistic resemblance to French impressionism. Frieseke describes the landscape in broken brushstrokes of pure color, which dissolve concrete form in shimmering sunlight. The purple shadows and the bright orange coloring of the translucent parasol suggest brilliant sunshine. Frieseke painted The Garden Umbrella at Giverny, where he was a neighbor of Claude Monet for a number of years. His inclusion of a garden pool with water lilies is a subtle reminder of his deep respect for the venerated French artist.

Like several other paintings in this exhibition, this work was acquired in 1942 as a bequest from Telfair trustee Elizabeth Millar Bullard. Bullard collected upon the advice of Gari Melchers, who often asked Bullard to purchase paintings that Melchers could not afford to acquire for Telfair’s collection with his limited acquisition funds.

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Frederick Carl Frieseke (American, 1874–1939), The Hammock, by 1915, oil on canvas, museum purchase, 1917.3

An American expatriate, Frederick Carl Frieseke trained at the Académie Julian in Paris before settling in Giverny, France, part of the second wave of American Impressionism. The Hammock, painted after his move to Giverny in 1906, is an excellent example of Frieseke’s mature style. At this point, Frieseke had completely absorbed the Impressionist technique, adopting softer colors and looser brushwork while emphasizing the effects of natural light. In The Hammock, the predominant periwinkle blue color suggests the cool shade of the tree, while the vivid white spots indicate the sunlight filtering through the leaves. Frieseke was fascinated by sunlight, declaring his preference for painting “sunshine, flowers in sunshine; girls in sunshine; the nude in sunshine.” 

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Frederick Carl Frieseke (American, 1874–1939), The Hammock, by 1915, oil on board, museum purchase, 1999.9

This small study for Frieseke’s masterwork The Hammock was most likely painted directly from nature. In it, Frieseke captured the dramatic dappled sunlight and various shades of blue that distinguish the final composition.

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Childe Hassam (American, 1859–1935), Brooklyn Bridge in Winter, 1904, oil on canvas, museum purchase, 1907.2

New York City was frequently the subject of Childe Hassam’s paintings after his return from Paris in 1889. The artist insisted, “To me New York is the most wonderful and most beautiful city in the world.” The pastel colors, high vantage point, and broken brushstrokes of Brooklyn Bridge in Winter are all formal elements which characterize Impressionism, a style which Hassam adopted while studying in Paris. Like the French Impressionists, Hassam was committed to portraying contemporary subjects drawn from daily life, and the city of New York provided him with ample inspiration. This iconic work was one of the first works to be purchased for Telfair’s collection by art advisor Gari Melchers. Melchers began collecting work by Hassam and other American artists immediately upon beginning his association with the museum; prior to Melchers, the collection was almost all work by European artists.

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Childe Hassam (American, 1859–1935), Avenue of the Allies, 1917, oil on canvas, bequest of Elizabeth Millar (Mrs. Bernice Frost) Bullard, 1942.11

A native of Massachusetts who studied in Paris, Childe Hassam settled permanently in New York City in 1889. He was already recognized as one of America’s foremost artists when he began his series of nearly thirty flag paintings, produced from 1916 to 1919. Although not originally conceived as a coherent series, Hassam’s flag paintings were created in response to the events of the war, and in that respect served as patriotic statements in support of the American cause. Many works in the flag series demonstrate a powerful emphasis on abstract design, patterning, and asymmetry. For instance, in Avenue of the Allies, Hassam utilizes a high vantage point, complex surface pattern, and dramatic vertical recession to unify the various pictorial elements into one striking design.

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Charles Webster Hawthorne (American, 1872–1930), On the Dunes, c. 1900–10, oil on canvas, gift of Anna Belle (Mrs. Edward) Karow, 1915.1

The popularity of landscape painting and the growth of rural art colonies were a result of the increasing urbanization and industrialization of the Western world. William Merritt Chase offered a summer art class in one such rural art colony, located in Shinnecock, Long Island, where Charles Hawthorne was a pupil. In 1899, Hawthorne established a community in Provincetown on Cape Cod, which remains a vital art colony today. On the Dunes shows Hawthorne’s debt to Chase; his placement of the horizon and treatment of figures and the sky echo Chase’s well-known paintings of his daughters passing summer afternoons on the dunes at Shinnecock.

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George Hitchcock (American, 1850–1913), Early Spring in Holland, c. 1890–1905, oil on canvas, museum purchase, 1908.5

With its high-key colors, broad brush strokes, and sensitivity to natural light, Early Spring in Holland reveals the influence exerted by Impressionism on George Hitchcock’s mature work. The painting’s horizontal format emphasizes the long rows of bulbs and the flatness of the Dutch terrain, while the lavender gray sky reflects Hitchcock’s deep appreciation for the brilliant, opalescent light of the Netherlands.

Born in Providence, Rhode Island, George Hitchcock graduated from Brown University in 1872 and then attended Harvard Law School. He practiced law for several years before deciding in 1879 to move to Europe to pursue a career in art. He worked and studied in London, Paris, The Hague, and Düsseldorf until 1883, when he settled in the Egmonds, a cluster of villages on the North Sea in Holland. There, he and American artist Gari Melchers founded the Egmond school, which is associated with sunlit Dutch landscapes and genre scenes featuring traditionally costumed figures.

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Ernest Lawson (American, B. Canada, 1873-1939), Stuyvesant Square in Winter, c. 1907, oil on canvas, museum purchase, 1907.5

Ernest Lawson was often classified as an Impressionist, but also had close ties to the urban realists of the Ashcan school. This painting combines the feathered brushwork of the Impressionists with urban subject matter linking Lawson to the Ashcan artists. The picturesque parks of Manhattan attracted many artists, but Stuyvesant Square was less known and rarely appears in paintings from this period. This work is typical of Lawson’s early style, which is characterized by linear definition of forms mixed with flickering strokes of pigment and a layered buildup of impasto. He has convincingly captured the sparkling haze of the twilight atmosphere, dotting the canvas with flicks of vibrant color in a myriad of hues.

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Gari Melchers (American, 1860–1932), The Unpretentious Garden, c. 1903–15, oil on canvas, museum purchase, Button Gwinnett Autograph Fund, 1916.5

Gari Melchers is a pivotal figure in the distinguished history of the Telfair Museums. Melchers’s long association with the Telfair began in 1903 when he wed Corinne Mackall, whose uncle was president of the Telfair Board of Trustees. Serving as the museum’s fine arts advisor from 1906 to 1916, Melchers collected more than seventy works for the Telfair’s permanent collection, including most of the museum’s treasured impressionist paintings.

An excellent example of Melchers’s own adaptation of the impressionist style, The Unpretentious Garden also serves as a keen reminder of his association with the Telfair. The artist’s wife, Corinne, is depicted sewing in the garden of the couple’s home in Egmond, Holland, where Melchers lived and worked from 1884 to 1915. There, he and artist George Hitchcock created the first critically acclaimed paintings of their careers, many inspired by the daily lives of their Dutch neighbors.

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Willard Leroy Metcalf (American, 1858–1925), Buttercup Time, 1920, oil on canvas, museum purchase, 1926.1

Although he was to become a well-known American Impressionist, Willard Metcalf began his career as a wood engraver before receiving a scholarship to study at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. In 1883 he sailed for Paris, where he studied at the Académie Julian and traveled extensively. After returning to America in 1888, Metcalf settled in New York City and became a founding member of “The Ten” American painters, an independent group of Impressionists that included Childe Hassam and John Henry Twachtman. Metcalf was celebrated for his evocative landscape paintings, many of which depicted his native New England. In Buttercup Time, Metcalf utilized a bright palette, loose brushstrokes, and an informal composition to capture a sparkling field of flowers on a summer afternoon in New England.

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Willard Leroy Metcalf (American, 1858–1925), Lingering Snows, c. 1924, oil on canvas, bequest of Elizabeth Millar (Mrs. Bernice Frost) Bullard, 1942.15

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Jane Peterson (American, 1876–1965), Harbor at Gloucester, Massachusetts, c. 1916-1920, oil on canvas, museum purchase with funds provided by the Gari Melchers Collectors’ Society, 2016.8

Jane Peterson came of age during the heyday of American Impressionism, and her work is informed by the Impressionist aesthetic while also synthesizing the influences of post-impressionism, art nouveau, and fauvism. From her modest beginnings in Elgin, Illinois, she would quickly rise to become “one of the most foremost women painters in New York,” according to the New York Times in 1925.

Peterson studied and traveled extensively in Europe, including a six-month period during which she studied and worked in Madrid alongside Spanish artist Joaquin Sorolla, whose vibrant use of color proved highly influential to Peterson. During World War I, Peterson’s trips to Europe were replaced by sojourns on Cape Ann, Massachusetts, where she became entranced by the fishing village of Gloucester and would produce some of her most compelling work.

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Edward W. Redfield (American, 1869–1965), Center Bridge in Winter, c. 1920, oil on canvas, museum purchase, 1920.1

Born in Delaware, Redfield studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts before traveling to Paris in 1887. After a summer of painting in southern France with Robert Henri, Redfield’s main interest began to shift from portraiture to landscape. This emphasis developed and culminated in Redfield’s mature style shortly after he moved to Center Bridge, Pennsylvania, in 1900. There he worked out his personal
approach to Impressionism, which was to make him one of the most successful painters in America. By shaping blobs of paint into tactile masses which form the dried grasses, haystack, slushy snow, trees, buildings, and sky, Redfield recorded his vision of Center Bridge in Winter.

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Chauncey Foster Ryder (American, 1868-1949), Bend of the Road, c. 1910-16, oil on canvas, bequest of Elizabeth Millar Bullard, 1941.3

A New Englander by birth, Chauncey Ryder studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and spent seven years in Paris before finally settling in Wilton, New Hampshire. The countryside surrounding Wilton provided the perfect setting for Ryder’s work and quiet, unassuming lifestyle. A retiring man who eschewed all public notice of his art, Ryder nevertheless established a strong reputation as a landscape artist, selling his work through a well-known New York art dealer.

The serenity and solitude that characterized Ryder’s personal life can also be sensed in Bend of the Road. Ryder’s combination of subdued colors and sketchy, painterly forms conjures up a damp spring day in New England. The moisture-laden clouds and earth promise the renewal of life and lend the painting an understated optimism.

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Grace Cochrane Sanger (American, c. 1885–1966), Woman with Red Parasol, c.1920s, oil on board, museum purchase with funds provided by Carl and Barbara Sassano, 2019.27

Grace Cochrane Sanger was born in Newark, New Jersey, and studied painting with William Merritt Chase, Howard Pyle, and Hugh Breckenridge. She spent her adulthood in the Baltimore area, where she was known as a skilled portrait painter and illustrator. In Woman with Red Parasol, Sanger demonstrates her aptitude for experimenting with color, using vibrant shades of orange, purple, yellow, blue and green.

 

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John Henry Twachtman (American, 1853–1902), Mouth of the Seine, c. 1884–5, oil on canvas, bequest of Elizabeth Millar Bullard, 1942

John Henry Twachtman was a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, but spent much of his early career traveling and studying in Europe. Mouth of the Seine depicts a scene in the French seaside resort of Honfleur; however, the artist is far more concerned with color, composition, and structure than with the specific rendering of a particular location. The subdued, tonalist color palette creates a hazy atmosphere, and the landscape lacks any easily identifiable landmarks. The composition is anchored by the two boats and their corresponding reflections in the calm water.

 

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John Henry Twachtman (American, 1853-1902), Mouth of the Seine, c. 1884–9, etching on paper, gift of Diane and Ervin Houston, 2014.1.1

John Henry Twachtman was one of many artists who embraced printmaking as a form of original artistic expression in the late 19th century as part of a movement known as the Etching Revival. Here, he reimagines the composition of his oil painting by the same title (on view to the right) in the simplified, monochromatic medium of etching.

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French Impressionism

 

Although the only French artist on view in this exhibition to have exhibited with the original French Impressionists is Jean-François Raffaëlli, all were impacted in some way by the rise of the Impressionist style of painting in the late 19th century. Each of the works in this section was purchased for Telfair’s collection by art advisor Gari Melchers. Perhaps cognizant of the fact that Savannah would not have provided a warm reception to the most radical of the modern French artists, Melchers moderated his selection by purchasing works that were decisively modern in style but that stopped short of being truly radical.  As a result, while the quality of these paintings is very high, their creators are not as well known today as they were during their lifetimes.

The purchase of each of these paintings was carefully negotiated between Melchers, acting as agent for Telfair, and the artist or the artist’s representatives. Melchers used his own status as an artist and his passion for developing Telfair’s collection to bolster his negotiations. In the case of Henri Caro-Delvaille, Melchers recounted to Telfair’s board president: “He just simply did not want to part with it, and only today at a luncheon party did he give in.  I told him that the Savannah museum was the most promising in our glorious country, as in the last few years they had acquired a Roll, Puvis de Chavannes, La Touche, Aman-Jean, several Besnards, Raffaëllis and that sort of things, all of which you know is true.”

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Paul Albert Besnard (French, 1849-1934), Waterfall, c. 1895, Mountain Lake with Two White Horses, c. 1895, Mountain Peak, c. 1895, oil on canvas, gifts of Beatrice Hood Stroup, 1984.3.1, 1986.1, 1984.3.2

These extraordinary panels originally decorated the salon of Siegfried Bing’s L’Art Nouveau gallery in Paris. Dedicated to modern taste, the gallery contained a series of rooms decorated by contemporary artists. Paul Albert Besnard was commissioned to decorate the circular salon, which included these three panels and eight additional wall panels as well as an illusionistic ceiling panel. Besnard’s panels display the emphasis on nature and organic design that characterizes the Art Nouveau movement. The human presence is dwarfed by the awesome scale of the mountains, which tower majestically above the viewer. Originally purchased for Telfair Museums by Gari Melchers, these panels were deaccessioned in the mid-20th century. A generous donor later acquired them, had them conserved, and donated them back to the museum in the 1980s. An example of innovative contemporary design, these panels demonstrate that Melchers’s forward-thinking acquisitions for Telfair extended beyond Impressionism to other avant-garde artistic movements.

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Henri Caro-Delvaille (French, 1875-1928), La toilette d’Herminie, 1906, oil on canvas, museum purchase, 1910

This painting is one of only two nudes acquired by Gari Melchers for Telfair’s collection. The other, Reflections (Marcelle) is also on view in this exhibition. Melchers was particularly proud to have negotiated this purchase for the museum, writing, “I have succeeded today, after much persuasion, to buy the finest nude painted anywhere in the last years, by Caro-Delvaille, a three-quarter length which was shown at the Salon three or four years ago, price 6,000 francs. He simply did not want to part with it, and only today at a luncheon party did he give in.”

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Raoul Du Gardier (French, 1871-1952), Calme Blanc, c. 1900-1909, oil on canvas, museum purchase, 1909.1

Born in Germany to French parents, Raoul du Gardier pursued his artistic studies in Paris. His early, more academic work often portrayed fantastic mythological and biblical scenes, but in the early twentieth century he turned his attention to contemporary life and produced lively images of socialites at play.

Calme Blanc demonstrates how du Gardier and many other academic artists adopted the contemporary subject matter, broken brushstrokes, and bright palette of the Impressionists. Stranded in a calm sea, a party of elegantly dressed figures awaits the return of the wind. The large canvas is daringly composed; the perspective is from the deck of the boat and the view of the vessel itself is severely cropped. This “blonde” palette and the loose brush strokes owe their origins to Impressionist practice. Yet du Gardier’s carefully rendered, stylishly dressed figures ensure this painting’s acceptability to the conservative Salon and middle-class patrons.

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Gaston La Touche, (French, 1854–1913), Ballet Dancers, by 1907, body color, pastel on canvas, museum purchase, 1907.1

Born and raised near Paris, Gaston La Touche became a painter despite his family’s objections. As a young man he participated in spirited discussions about art at the Cafe de la Nouvelle-Athenes, alongside his friends Edgar Degas, Félix Bracquemond, and Édouard Manet. He formed important friendships with these men, even serving as a model for the figure of the mustachioed man at the bar in Manet’s iconic painting A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1882).

Ballet Dancers recalls La Touche’s early ties to the Impressionists. Degas’ influence is apparent in the choice of medium, subject, and composition. A line of dancers in white tutus form a semi-circle on the left side of the canvas, while the two men on the right stand across from the semi-circle, gesturing at the dancers.

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Henri-Jean Guillaume Martin (French, 1860-1943), Head of a Young Girl, 1904-14, oil on panel, museum purchase, 1914.3

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Henri-Jean Guillaume Martin (French, 1860–1943), Puy L’Eveque, c. 1914, oil on canvas, museum purchase, 1914.4

This pointillist depiction of the medieval French town of Puy L’Eveque by Henri Martin was selected for the Telfair by Gari Melchers in 1914.

Artistic success came early to Henri Martin. In 1879, at the age of nineteen, he was awarded the Grand Prix at the École des Beaux-Arts in his hometown of Toulouse. Shortly thereafter he moved to Paris and entered that city’s École des Beaux-Arts to study with Jean-Paul Laurens. Martin first exhibited at the Salon in 1880 and was awarded a first-class medal at the 1883 Salon. An 1885 trip to Italy marked the beginning of the artist’s lengthy period of experimentation with symbolism, impressionism, and pointillism. A combination of these elements became Martin’s signature style, which remained essentially unchanged until his death in 1943.

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Jean-François Raffaëlli (French, 1850-1924), La demoiselle d’honneur (The Maid of Honor), c. 1901, oil on canvas, museum purchase, 1910.2

An artist of enormous range, sensitivity, and talent, Jean-François Raffaëlli is best known for images of the disenfranchised poor who inhabited the sprawling Parisian suburbs in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. In the early 1890s Raffaëlli began producing numerous cityscapes featuring Parisian monuments and boulevards, and began to focus on middle-class subjects. La demoiselle d’honneur embodies the lighthearted elegance characteristic of his late works. The painting drew enthusiastic reviews when it was exhibited in the Paris Salon of 1901; one critic later raved that it was “a new symphony in white, marvelous for its grace and charm.” This comparison to the famous tonalist painting Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl by James McNeill Whistler (1862; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.) calls attention to Raffaëlli’s limited color scheme, which gleams in shades of white punctuated by dramatic areas of black and red.

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Jean-François Raffaëlli (French, 1850-1924), La Seine à Billancourt (The River Seine at Billancourt) c. 1905–10, oil on canvas, museum purchase, 1910.3

Born in Paris, Jean-François Raffaëlli worked as a singer and actor to earn a living while he studied art at the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts. During the 1870s he met the artist Edgar Degas, under whose sponsorship Raffaëlli twice exhibited with the Impressionists. Yet paintings like La Seine à Billancourt, which depicts the industrial suburbs of Paris, are not representative of Impressionism in general. While the Impressionists frequently depicted middle-class leisure activities, such as boating, dancing, or picnicking, Raffaëlli was best known for images of the lives and surroundings of the disenfranchised poor.

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Alfred Philippe Roll (French, 1846-1919), Félix Faure and his Grandson, 1895–9, oil on canvas, gift of George J. Baldwin, Alexander R. Lawton, William W. Mackall, and J. Florance Minis 1907.3.2

A native of Paris, Alfred Philippe Roll attended the École des Beaux-Arts, where he studied under Henri-Joseph Harpignies and Charles-François Daubigny, both landscape artists with strong connections to the Barbizon school. Roll became a favorite of the French government, which appreciated the “acceptable modernity” of his style. He completed numerous official government portraits, commemorative pictures, and grandiose public murals.

After 1888 his style began to reflect the influence of French Impressionism, evidenced by a brighter palette and relaxed brushstrokes. He became fascinated with sunlight, often making preliminary sketches outdoors to capture the light more accurately. This painting, executed at the subject’s home, is a refreshingly informal oil sketch for a portrait of Félix Faure, a President of the French Republic.

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Alfred Smith (French, 1854-1936), Le déjeuner sous les bois (Luncheon Under the Trees), 1903, oil on canvas, gift of George J. Baldwin, Alexander R. Lawton, William W. Mackall, and J. Florance Minis 1907.3.1

This painting by Alfred Smith portrays an older man seated outdoors at an informal wooden table covered with a white cloth and laden with jugs and glasses. He stirs his coffee while offering the remains of his luncheon to a chicken below. Sunlight filters through the trees, forming bright pools on the grass and tablecloth. This pleasant portrayal of a gentleman at leisure, incorporating fleeting effects of sunlight, vivid color, and loose brushwork, is characteristic of the subject matter for which the artist is best known. This painting was selected for Telfair’s collection by Gari Melchers in 1907, and its purchase was funded by a group of Telfair board members supportive of Melchers’s vision.

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Alfred Smith (French, 1854-1936), Bordeaux, vu du pont, journée d’hiver (Bordeaux, View from the Bridge, Winter Day), 1904, oil on canvas, museum purchase, 1908.8

Born in Bordeaux to a family of English origin, Alfred Smith belonged to a generation of artists whose work drew upon the realist traditions of Camille Corot and Gustave Courbet, as well as the novel approach to light and atmosphere adopted by the Impressionists. This painting presents a dramatic view of the quay in the artist’s native city, seen from the elevated vantage point of a bridge. The composition is anchored by the strong diagonal of the quayside road, which plunges back toward the city buildings in the distance. The overcast sky conveys the cold, damp chill of winter, and mingles with the smoke of portside industry in the distance.

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Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836–1902), Study for La Tamise, c. 1871–72, ink and gouache over graphite on paper, gift of Gari Melchers, 1926.74.2

Jacques Joseph Tissot built his reputation as a society painter, first in his native France and later in London. Unlike most of the works in this exhibition, which were museum purchases selected by art advisor Gari Melchers, this delicate drawing is one of a small number of artworks that Melchers personally gifted to the museum in 1926, near the end of his life.

 

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German Impressionism

 

Despite (or perhaps because of), its popularity in Paris, Impressionism took nearly two decades to receive widespread acceptance in Germany. Tensions between Germany and France following the Franco-Prussian war (1870-71) led to reduced contact between the two nations and a consequent reduction in the interchange of artistic ideas. Even after the Impressionist style of painting became popular among German artists, these artists contended with public disapproval from Kaiser Wilhelm II. Stylistically, the German Impressionists are known for their use of a darker, more somber color palette than their French counterparts.

The works in this section, all created by artists from or active in Germany, reflect the background and interest of Gari Melchers, the art advisor who acquired them for Telfair’s collection. Melchers had strong ties to Germany; his father was born there, and Melchers received some of his earliest artistic training in Dusseldorf. All acquired between 1907 and 1916, several of the paintings in this section portray Dutch subjects, perhaps a nod to the fact that Melchers was primarily living and working in the Netherlands during this period.

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Olga Boznańska (Polish, 1865-1940), Jeune homme avec chemise rose (Young Man in a Pink Shirt), 1898, oil on illustration board, museum purchase, 1910

Born in Kraków, Poland, Olga Boznanska was the best-known Polish female artist in Europe during her lifetime. She began her career in art by drawing under the guidance of Józef Siedlecki and Kazimierz Pochwalski. She continued her studies in Munich, Germany, where she associated with many other Polish artists who had also left their home country to pursue their artistic careers. This portrait of Polish artist Eugen Dabrowski was painted in Munich and was acquired for Telfair’s collection by Gari Melchers in 1910. Melchers often used his status as a fellow artist to negotiate favorable prices for Telfair. He wrote of this painting that “after talking very poor and cracking up the Museum, [it] was sold for the modest sum of 1,000 francs.”

 

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Albert Engstfeld (German, 1876–1930), Church Interior, Saint Anne, Sluis, c.1912, oil on canvas, museum purchase, 1912.2

This view of a church interior in the town of Sluis in the Dutch province of Zeeland was one of three Dutch-themed works by German artist purchased by Gari Melchers for Telfair’s collection in 1912. Artist Albert Engstfeld was born in Düsseldorf but spent time living and working in the Netherlands and Belgium. Engstfeld’s view of this church interior harkens back to 17th-century precedents such as the Dutch painter Emanuel De Witte.

 

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Theodor Hagen (German, 1842–1919), Abend in den Feldern (Evening in the Fields), by 1912, oil on canvas, museum purchase, 1912.1

Theodor Hagen was born in Dusseldorf and was known both for his work as an art teacher and as a founder of German Impressionism. This work was purchased for Telfair’s collection by Gari Melchers in 1912, when Melchers and Hagen were colleagues at the Academy in Weimar. Abend in den Feldern is a study of evening light on the fields of Weimar. The soft yellows of the sky blend with the silvery green and lavenders of the fields, producing the gentle effect of dimming light and the onset of evening. Two small figures cross the fields, but they are so insignificant that the painting easily becomes an abstract composition of color harmonies.

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Hans Herrmann (German, 1858–1942), Amsterdam, 1900–1910, oil on canvas, museum purchase, 1910.1

Born and raised in Berlin, Hans Herrmann attended a high school for the arts before leaving in 1880 to study painting at Düsseldorf. There, Herrmann met Gari Melchers, who would be the Telfair’s fine arts advisor from 1906 to 1916, and the two remained lifelong friends. In 1883 Herrmann joined Melchers and George Hitchcock in Holland, and although he visited Holland periodically throughout his life, he returned to live in Berlin in 1886. Herrmann’s early paintings belong to the German tradition of dark and somber realism, and Amsterdam possesses the traits of this early style. The painting is a view of a Dutch street with vendors and a female shopper; the predominant color is grayish brown, with only minor highlights of white, red, lavender and yellow. Although Herrmann’s later work would show the influence of the bright palette and loose brushwork of impressionism, this painting contains few hints of Herrmann’s later impressionistic style.

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Gotthardt-Johann Kuehl (German, 1850–1915), Apfelessendes Mädchen (Girl Eating an Apple), c. 1911–1912, oil on panel, museum purchase, 1912.3

This painting features riotous colors—deep purples, reds, blues, and pinks—and paint thickly slathered on the canvas. The subject, a Dutch peasant girl eating an apple in a casual, unstudied pose, demonstrates the early 20th-century German taste for Dutch genre scenes that represent the working class. Kuehl, who studied art in Dresden and Munich, was an early proponent of Impressionism in Germany.

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Raphael Lewisohn (German, 1863–1923), Pasturage in the Dunes, 1905, oil on canvas, museum purchase, 1907.9

In this painting, a young goatherd is shown seated on the dunes in the foreground, immersed in her tatting, her goats grazing behind her and the sea barely visible on the horizon. The Telfair’s fine arts advisor, Gari Melchers, purchased Pasturage in the Dunes for the museum’s permanent collection in 1907. Melchers lived and worked in the small Dutch fishing village of Egmond from 1884 to 1915; this work must have appealed to Melchers for both its vivid coloration and its Dutch subject.

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Ernst Oppler (German, 1867–1929), Tennis in den Dünen (Tennis in the Dunes), 1909, oil on canvas, museum purchase, 1916.1

Born in Hanover, Germany, Ernst Oppler began studying art in Munich in 1886. Like many of his colleagues, Oppler was eventually drawn to Holland and spent the period of 1901 through 1904 at Sluis, in the southwestern portion of the country. After moving to Berlin in 1905, Oppler came under the influence of painter Max Liebermann (1847-1935), known for his depictions of life in orphanages, workhouses, and homes for the elderly. Oppler’s dark style from this period was eventually overtaken by a brighter, more impressionistic style, and he earned acclaim for his paintings of beach scenes, tennis games, dance halls, and other images of the middle class at play.

This painting, which depicts a tennis match in the dunes of the Belgian seaside resort town of Ostend, was purchased for the Telfair by Gari Melchers in 1916 from the estate of renowned collector Hugo Reisinger (1856-1914). The catalogue of the Reisinger estate sale describes the work as follows: “Deep, broad sand dunes form a slightly rolling sky line across the background, beyond which the observer feels the presence of the ocean beneath a soft gray sky traced with white clouds. In front of the dunes tennis courts are laid out, and fenced in with high protective nettings, and a gaily dressed collection of summer sojourners at the famous resort are gathered on all sides watching the contestants in a game.”

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George Sauter (German, 1866-1935), Frost und Nebel (Fog and Frost), 1907, oil on canvas, museum purchase, 1916

George Sauter was born in Rettenbach, Bavaria, and began his study of art at the Royal Academy in Munich, Germany. Sauter traveled across Europe, working on his craft in Holland, Belgium, France, and Italy before settling in London in 1895, where he married Lilian Galsworthy and remained for the next twenty years. His marriage to Galsworthy, whose father was a well-known author, introduced him to prominent artists including James Whistler and Joseph Pennell. Sauter, who had not become a citizen during his stay in London, was interned at the outbreak of World War I and repatriated to Germany in 1917. Following Sauter’s death, Sir John Lavery wrote that Sauter “did more to spread a knowledge of what was best in art than any man of his time.”

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