Poppies

Robert William Vonnoh (American, 1858-1933)

Currently on View in K209
Image Licensing

Poppies gives the effect of having been painted quickly and directly before the subject.


At a distance, the choppy strokes and daubs of color resolve into a luminous floral landscape.


Painted in France in 1888, this canvas is one of the earliest American responses to French Impressionism.

Curatorial Summary

Robert Vonnoh may not be one of America’s best-known Impressionist painters, but he was the first American artist to bring European Impressionism to this country. Born in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1858, Vonnoh moved with his parents to Boston while still a child. He initially studied art at Boston's Massachusetts Normal Art School. Vonnoh continued his training in Paris at the Académie Julian in 1881. Upon returning to Boston, Vonnoh began to establish a career for himself as a portrait painter, but in 1887 the artist returned to France and settled for four years in the area of Grèz-sur-Loing, an artist's colony 70 kilometers south of Paris. Numerous paintings he created in France were displayed at the Paris Salon, but he also had many solo exhibitions in America and was principal instructor in portrait and landscape painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from 1891 to 1894. In 1892 the academy dedicated two galleries to Vonnoh’s works in its annual exhibition. Vonnoh's students at the Academy included William Glackens, Robert Henri, and John Sloan, who went on to become part of the group known as the Ashcan School. During his career, Vonnoh was considered one of the foremost landscape and portrait painters in America. For over 25 years he was also part of the artists’ colony at Old Lyme, Connecticut.

During his second stay in France, Vonnoh painted Poppies, deemed one of the most radical American Impressionist works of the period. Because of their intense hues, poppy fields were favorite subjects for the French Impressionists. Vonnoh’s painting seems to have been rendered quickly and directly before the subject. With no horizon or path for the eye to follow out of the foreground, the landscape seems to pitch forward, emphasizing the two-dimensional surface of the canvas. At a distance, the swarm of choppy strokes and daubs of vivid pigment resolve into a luminous picture that incorporates the Impressionist techniques of broken brushwork and contrasting complementary colors. Poppies is one of the earliest paintings by an American Impressionist to equal in brilliance of color and freedom of handling the work of the French Impressionists.

References

Greenhouse, Wendy. Robert Vonnoh: American Impressionist. Chicago: Madron Gallery, 2010.

Hill, May Brawley. Grez Days: Robert Vonnoh in France. New York: Berry-Hill Galleries, 1987.

Weinberg, H. Barbara. “Summers in the Country.” In Americans in Paris: 1860-1900, edited by Jennifer Speake, 115-177. London: National Gallery, 2006.

Mrs. McMorris (mother of the artist, Daniel McMorris, close friend of Robert Vonnoh); private collection Kansas City, Missouri; (Berry-Hill Galeries), New York, New York; purchased by the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1971.

Object Information

artist
Robert William Vonnoh (American, 1858-1933)
creation date
1888
materials
oil on canvas
dimensions
13 x 18 in. (canvas)
20-7/8 x 26-1/16 in. (framed)
accession number
71.8
credit line
James E. Roberts Fund
copyright
Public Domain
collection
American Painting and Sculpture to 1945
colors

You May Also Like