Collection

Works by United States artists from the French National Collections, 1620-1940  

Artists’ colonies

In the 1880s, American artists began to live and work in artist’s colonies located outside French urban centers. Inspired by the example of French Impressionists, some chose to work in the new suburban leisure centers near the perimeter of Paris such as Giverny, where Claude Monet had settled in 1883. American artists who moved to Giverny included John Singer Sargent, Frederick MacMonnies, Willard Metcalf, Lila Cabot Perry, and Theodore Robinson. Other artists congregated in coastal villages like Etaples and Brest in the north or Collioures in the south. The popularity of these picturesque regions was partly dictated by the popularity of the Impressionist style, which valued the spontaneous effects created by outdoor painting. The rural exodus may have also been prompted by the increasing industrialization and urbanisation of French life. In the 1870s, Impressionist artists like Monet and Gustave Caillebotte had recorded the bustle of urban life, frequently choosing explicitly modern themes like recently constructed train stations and bridges. But in the 1880s, many artists associated with the Impressionist movement turned their attention inwards, away from gritty pictures of the modern city and towards picturesque scenes of cultivated leisure. Some American Impressionists, like Childe Hassam, painted vivid vignettes of urban life in Paris and New York during these years. But the majority sought out artists’ colonies as retreats from the encroach of urban modernity.