Cosmopolitanism and the Gilded Age

Theodore Robinson (1852–1896)
Blossoms at Giverny, 1891–92
Oil on canvas, 21 5/8 x 20 1/8 in. (54.9 x 51.1 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1992.130

Object-Theodore Robinson, Blossoms at Giverny

Theodore Robinson, one of the foremost American impressionists, was a friend of Claude Monet (1840–1926) and lived in the same French village as the master from 1888 to 1892. Blossoms at Giverny is one of two closely related works Robinson painted there that depict a little girl followed by a woman beneath blossom-laden trees. The soft pink that dominates the image is reminiscent of the subtle hues of apple trees during spring and creates a sense that the whole picture is in bloom. Captured from an elevated point of view, the scene displays a tipped-up perspective that reflects the influence of Japanese prints. The faint traces of penciled grid lines under the paint suggest that Robinson copied the composition from a photograph. If so, the painting shows how he combined modern technology—to capture a moment in time—with the immediate and spontaneous brushwork characteristic of impressionism.

Learn more about this painting on the Terra Foundation website.


Perspective

A painting with the title From a Chamber Window was exhibited in 1895 at Theodore Robinson’s first solo show. We do not know with certainty what work that title referred to, but from the description of the painting it was likely either Blossoms at Giverny or In the Orchard (1891, Princeton University Art Museum, New Jersey), which are similar in format, scenery, and subject matter. The original title suggests that the scene was captured from the artist’s second-floor room in Giverny, France, where he would have taken the photographs used as sources for his paintings. Though the photographs themselves are now lost, the graphite grid used to transfer the photographic image onto the canvas is still visible in Blossoms at Giverny. Furthermore, the moments depicted in the two paintings appear to be based on photographs taken a few seconds apart. The sequence gives rise to a sort of narration that affords Robinson’s scene a cinematic character.

In the first “still,” Blossoms at Giverny, we see two figures walking toward the right, a few steps away from one another, enveloped by the branches of an apple tree in bloom. The viewer senses that the figures will soon leave the field of vision, following the descending diagonal line that marks the path. In the second still, In the Orchard, the viewpoint of the painter has shifted to the right and turned slightly to the left. He has also zoomed in a bit on the figures, who have now stopped, face to face. Robinson emphasizes the inconsequential nature of the scene by leaving the action in the back- ground, almost out of focus. The possibility of reading this work in cinematic fashion is in keeping with the idea that early cinema appropriated the subject matter and techniques of the impressionists, a thesis explored in the 2005 exhibition Impressionnisme et naissance du cinématographe (Musée des Beaux Arts, Lyon). The bird’s-eye view in Blossoms at Giverny results in a daring composition, exceptional in Robinson’s oeuvre. The painter combined the daily act of observing what was happening beneath his window with new ways of seeing, fueled by novelties such as the Japanese prints, stereoscopic views, and aerial photography that were popular in France and the United States during the 1880s.

Robinson, like the impressionists, sought to capture modern life with the greatest realism possible. Scenes of passersby are common in the work of the French impressionist painters whom Robinson would have known. Blossoms at Giverny was included in the traveling 2014–2015 exhibition American Impressionism, organized by the Musée des Impressionnismes, Giverny, and the Terra Foundation for American Art, in collaboration with the National Galleries of Scotland and the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. In the accompanying catalogue, curator and art historian Frances Fowle points out that a striking compositional similarity casts this work as a rural version of The Boulevard Seen from Above (1880, private collection), painted by Gustave Caillebotte (1848–1894) eleven years earlier. Caillebotte captured what he saw from the window of his apartment in Paris at an even sharper angle than the one used by Robinson. In both works the ground becomes a backdrop against which the branches of a tree and the figures of the passersby stand out, a space hard to understand at first, but nevertheless faithful to what the painter had seen.

Clara Marcellán
Assistant Curator, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid


    Theodore Robinson (1852–1896)
    Blossoms at Giverny, 1891–92
    Oil on canvas, 21 5/8 x 20 1/8 in. (54.9 x 51.1 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1992.130

    Cosmopolitanism and the Gilded Age

    Childe Hassam (1859–1935)
    Une Averse—rue Bonaparte, 1887
    Oil on canvas, 40 3/8 x 77 7/16 in. (102.6 x 196.7 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1993.20
    William Merritt Chase (1849–1916)
    Morning at Breakwater, Shinnecock, c. 1897
    Oil on canvas, 40 x 50 in. (101.6 x 127.0 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.30
    Edmund C. Tarbell (1862–1938)
    In the Orchard, 1891
    Oil on canvas, 60 3/4 x 65 1/2 in. (154.3 x 166.4 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.141
    Mary Cassatt (1844–1926)
    Summertime, 1894
    Oil on canvas, 39 5/8 x 32 in. (100.6 x 81.3 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1988.25
    John Singer Sargent (1856–1925)
    Breton Woman with a Basket, Study for “En route pour la pêche” and “Fishing for Oysters at Cancale”, 1877
    Oil on canvas, 18 1/2 x 11 3/4 in. (47.0 x 29.8 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1996.53
    John Singer Sargent (1856–1925)
    Breton Girl with a Basket, Study for “En route pour la pêche” and “Fishing for Oysters at Cancale”, 1877
    Oil on canvas, 19 x 11 1/2 in. (48.3 x 29.2 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.129
    John Singer Sargent (1856–1925)
    Girl on the Beach, Study for “En route pour la pêche” and “Fishing for Oysters at Cancale”, 1877
    Oil on canvas, 19 x 11 1/2 in. (48.3 x 29.2 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.131
    John Singer Sargent (1856–1925)
    Young Boy on the Beach, Study for “En route pour la pêche” and “Fishing for Oysters at Cancale”, 1877
    Oil on canvas, 17 1/4 x 10 1/4 in. (43.8 x 26.0 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.132
    James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834–1903)
    The Zattere: Harmony in Blue and Brown, c. 1879
    Pastel, with traces of black chalk, on brown wove paper, 11 x 7 5/8 in. (27.9 x 19.4 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1992.162
    James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834–1903)
    Note in Red: The Siesta, by 1884
    Oil on panel, 8 5/16 x 12 in. (21.1 x 30.5 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.149
    Joseph H. Boston (1860–1954)
    From Shore to Shore, 1885
    Oil on canvas, 27 5/8 x 35 5/8 in. (70.2 x 90.5 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.13
    George de Forest Brush (1855–1941)
    The Weaver, 1889
    Oil on canvas, 12 x 15 in. (30.5 x 38.1 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1988.23
    Theodore Wendel (1859–1932)
    Brook, Giverny, 1887
    Oil on canvas, 28 1/2 x 35 5/8 in. (72.4 x 90.5 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1987.13
    Irving Ramsey Wiles (1861–1948)
    On the Veranda, 1887
    Oil on canvas, 20 1/4 x 26 1/4 in. (51.4 x 66.7 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.152
    Charles Courtney Curran (1861–1942)
    Lotus Lilies, 1888
    Oil on canvas, 18 x 32 in. (45.7 x 81.3 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.35
    Dennis Miller Bunker (1861–1890)
    Brittany Town Morning, Larmor, 1884
    Oil on canvas, 14 x 22 in. (35.6 x 55.9 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1991.1
    John Singer Sargent (1856–1925)
    Dennis Miller Bunker Painting at Calcot, 1888
    Oil on canvas mounted on Masonite, 27 x 25 1/4 in. (68.6 x 64.1 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.130
    William Merritt Chase (1849–1916)
    Spring Flowers (Peonies), by 1889
    Pastel on paper, prepared with a tan ground, and wrapped with canvas around a wooden strainer, 48 x 48 in. (121.9 x 121.9 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.32
    Childe Hassam (1859–1935)
    Horse Drawn Cabs at Evening, New York, c. 1890
    Watercolor on paper, 14 x 17 3/4 in. (35.6 x 45.1 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.66
    John Leslie Breck (1860–1899)
    Garden at Giverny (In Monet's Garden), c. 1887–91
    Oil on canvas, 18 1/8 x 21 7/8 in. (46.0 x 55.6 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1988.22
    Guy Rose (1867–1925)
    Giverny Hillside, c. 1890–91
    Oil on panel, 12 7/16 x 16 1/8 in. (31.6 x 41.0 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1992.2
    Childe Hassam (1859–1935)
    Horticulture Building, World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893
    Oil on canvas, 18 1/2 x 26 1/4 in. (47.0 x 66.7 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.67
    Theodore Robinson (1852–1896)
    Blossoms at Giverny, 1891–92
    Oil on canvas, 21 5/8 x 20 1/8 in. (54.9 x 51.1 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1992.130
    Lilla Cabot Perry (1848–1933)
    Self-Portrait, c. 1889–96
    Oil on canvas, 31 7/8 x 25 5/8 in. (81.0 x 65.1 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.107
    Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859–1937)
    Les Invalides, Paris, 1896
    Oil on canvas, 13 1/8 x 16 1/8 in. (33.3 x 41.0 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.140
    John H. Twachtman (1853–1902)
    Winter Landscape, c. 1890–1900
    Oil on canvas, 30 1/8 x 30 1/8 in. (76.5 x 76.5 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1992.136
    Willard Metcalf (1858–1925)
    Havana Harbor, 1902
    Oil on canvas, 18 5/16 x 26 1/8 in. (46.5 x 66.4 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1992.49
    Thomas Eakins (1844–1916)
    Portrait of Thomas J. Eagan, 1907
    Oil on canvas, 24 x 20 in. (61.0 x 50.8 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Art Acquisition Endowment Fund, 1998.1
    Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851–1938)
    Portrait of a Lady Holding a Rose, 1912
    Oil on canvas, 21 1/4 x 16 1/4 in. (54.0 x 41.3 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.46
    Frederick Carl Frieseke (1874–1939)
    Lady in a Garden, c. 1912
    Oil on canvas, 31 7/8 x 25 3/4 in. (81.0 x 65.4 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.52