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American Impressionist and Realist Painters: 1870s-1920s

This course will discuss the American Impressionist and Realist painters who worked in the period of the 1870s to the 1920s. Although American artists initially rejected French Impressionism as an art style, by the 1880s Impressionism began to be accepted in the United States. Many American artists had studied in France and began working together in artists' colonies, located mainly in the Northeast. They were influenced by the French Impressionists' techniques, as well as their subject matter—the painting of modern life. In their work, the American Impressionists expressed optimism about the future and the rapid, dynamic changes which America was going through at the turn of the century. 

By the early 1900s, another group of American artists became popular. They were known as Realists or The Ashcan School due to their depiction of more negative aspects of urban life. Although the Realist painters were initially seen as opposed to the American Impressionists, in fact, the two groups often overlapped and had much in common. In class, we will study the paintings of these artists and discuss their lives and influence on future American artists.

Louise Loe is Professor Emerita at JMU, where she taught history from 1973 to 2020. Her specialties include Russian History, European History, and Modern Human Rights. She received a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia University.

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