A Summer Day

John Henry Twachtman (American, 1853-1902)

Currently on View in K209
Image Licensing

  • The large boulder in Twachtman’s composition looks soft and nearly weightless—the opposite of Childe Hassam’s Cliff Rock—Appledore, also in this gallery.
  • The harmony of gentle, low-keyed colors was characteristic of Twachtman’s work as a “master of nuance.” The network of brushstrokes and rhythmic contours of his composition enhance the dream-like atmosphere of this view of the hemlock pool on the artist’s Connecticut farm.
  • American art critics in his day compared his depiction of light and air to that of the French Impressionist Claude Monet. However, they felt that his quiet scenes were more “poetic” than Monet’s, a visual equivalent to reading the work of American poet Henry David Thoreau.
Twachtman and Impressionism

John Twachtman was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1853. His career began at age fourteen, when he helped his father decorate window shades. He studied in Munich with William Merritt Chase and Frank Duveneck. Twachtman’s early paintings were in the Munich manner. In 1883, he attended the Académie Julian in Paris, where he came under the influence of French Impressionism. His paintings shifted from the dark, shadowy Munich palette to soft gray and green tones. He became one of the founding members of The Ten, a group that included America’s most important Impressionist painters. Twachtman lightened his palette to the point where white dominated his canvases. He favored pure landscape, often excluding figures and buildings. When they did appear in his scenes, they were obscured by the hazy atmosphere. Twachtman’s landscapes took on an abstract quality that anticipated the modernist style.

The complex color harmonies and thick, interwoven strokes of pigment in A Summer Day recall the French painter Claude Monet’s canvases. Twachtman was inspired by the chromatic experiments of the Impressionists. Rhythmic lines in the contour of hill and rock, the bent figure in the boat, and the curve of the water’s edge form a decorative pattern, which is repetitive, yet varied. This peaceful scene of a figure on a small lake was painted on the artist’s farm in Connecticut.

Peters, Lisa N. John Henry Twachtman: An American Impressionist. Manchester, Vermont: Hudson Hills Press, 1999.

Probably owned by the Estate of John Herron, purchased from the Inaugural Exhibition by the John Herron Art Institute, Indianapolis Indiana, now the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, in 1906.

Object Information

John Henry Twachtman (American, 1853-1902)
creation date
about 1900
oil on canvas
27 x 30 in. (canvas)
34-5/8 x 39-1/2 in. (framed)
accession number
credit line
John Herron Fund
Public Domain
American Painting and Sculpture to 1945

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