Students will characterize how technology and current events influenced the way in which artists worked. Students will learn how Romantics, Realists, and Impressionists reacted against the traditional Academy in their break from Classicism.
State Content Standards
10.3.7 Describe the emergence of Romanticism in art and literature (e.g., the poetry of William Blake and William Wordsworth), social criticism (e.g., the novels of Charles Dickens), and the move away from Classicism in Europe.
Access to books, internet and articles for research.
Heavy paper cut into squares (construction, drawing, watercolor, canvas)
Paper plates to create palettes
Yellow, blue, red, and white paint
1 color reproduction of An Outdoor Portrait of Miss Weir cut into a class set of squares
- Show students An Outdoor Portrait of Miss Weir.
- Ask students to describe what they see. They may observe that it is a portrait of a woman in ¾ view, the brush strokes are loose, she is seated outside, she is wearing a white dress, etc.
- Ask students if they know what other artists paint in the same manner as the characteristics they observed.
- Tell students that the broken and loose brush strokes, outdoor leisurely subject matter, and representation of reflections of light and color are characteristics that are typical of Impressionists.
- Ask, “What is an impression?” An impression is a first and immediate effect upon the mind or a mark like a fingerprint or an indention or engraving. But in painting, it is identified with a group of artists that painted the effects of light and color to create a representation of real life, rather than trying to represent something exactly as it appeared in real life.
- Explain that students are going to learn why the Impressionists were so controversial at the time in which they painted. To understand their significance, one must understand the artists that preceded them.
- Split students into 4 groups (Neoclassicism, Romanticism, Realism, Impressionism).
- Have each group use the graphic organizer to research their movement.
- Have each group present their movement to the class.
- Emphasize how each movement reacts against the Classical tradition. Show how they reacted by the subject matter and style in which they painted.
- Give each group an envelope of different Impressionist, Realist, Neo-Classical and Romantic painting. Have them identify each one’s style based on the visual characteristics.
- Childe Hassam merged Realist and Impressionist techniques. Have students explain what they see that is Realistic and what is Impressionistic.
- Ask students why American Impressionists would want to paint a bit differently than the French Impressionists. Explain that this was part of keeping an American identity during a time when the US was trying to legitimize its art world, rather than only echoing what was taking place in Europe.
- Tell students that the break from Classicism and the move to always be avant-garde has characterized the way in which many artists still work. Have students give you examples of this statement.
- Cut the reproduction of Miss Weir into squares so there is one for each student.
- Give each student a square from the Miss Weir reproduction, a blank square (may be larger than the original square), brush, and palette with paint.
- Using a Q-tip for each color, have students study the brushwork and color, and replicate their square of Miss Weir onto their blank square. Explain while those Impressionists did mix their colors on their palette they also blended them on the canvas. Impressionists also did not use black, and rarely used browns.
- Put all of the squares together to create a class portrait of Miss Weir.
- Have students compare the different approaches to color and brushwork to emphasize that people see the same picture in different ways.
- Have students choose a picture from a magazine or sit outside and paint using the impressionist technique.
- Reinforce the layering of primary colors on the paper or canvas rather than mixing colors on the palette.
- Mount the finished artwork and display it in your classroom.
About the Artist
Childe Hassam was perhaps America’s best-known Impressionist painter. Known as a painter of urban scenes, Hassam recorded many of his outdoor subjects on extended stays in Europe or on visits to artists' colonies throughout New England. Hassam received in-depth exposure to Impressionism while studying in France between 1886 and 1889. Upon his return to the United States, he settled in New York. From there, he made repeated visits to Appledore, one of the Isles of Shoals of off the coast of New Hampshire. Here, he spent summers with other artists and his close friend, Celia Thaxter. Thaxter persuaded him to drop his given first name "Frederick" in favor of his more exotic middle name Childe.
An artist who relied on the sale of his paintings as his sole source of income, Hassam achieved considerable success during his lifetime. Among the honors he received was an invitation to display his art work in a separate room at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, which was held in San Francisco in 1915. The artist came west to view the exhibition and spend time painting. After his return to the East, he painted On the Palisades, whose title refers to a well-known geologic feature along the Hudson River. In this view, rendered from the Palisades towards New York City, Hassam now looked toward the home where he died in 1935, still the dean of the American Impressionist school.
An Outdoor Portrait of Miss Weir documents Hassam’s mature Impressionist style. The thick application of heightened pigments creates effects of dappled light. An Outdoor Portrait of Miss Weir indicates that although Hassam painted directly from nature, used a palette dominated by pastel tones, and employed broken strokes of color to develop his compositions, he nonetheless retained the identity of his subject rather than dissolving it in an envelope of light in the manner of the French Impressionists. Indeed, American Impressionism was distinguished from its European counterpart in holding on to its realist origins. Hassam also began to incorporate Post-Impressionist stylistic devices into his work after 1900, which are reflected in the ambitious portrait, where the brushstrokes resemble blocks of color in many places.
Appledore, where Hassam created nearly ten percent of his paintings and watercolors, is believed to be shown in the background of An Outdoor Portrait of Miss Weir, a rare example of a portrait by the artist. The subject, who was identified only as Portrait Out of Doors. Miss W, when the painting was exhibited in New York in 1926, is now understood to be one of J. Alden Weir's three daughters. Hassam met Weir, a member of a prominent family of American artists, in early 1890.They quickly established a close friendship that was interrupted only by Weir's death in 1919. Weir, who was beginning to explore Impressionism at the time of their introduction, joined Hassam and eight other artists in leaving the conservative Society of American Artists in 1898 to establish The Ten American Artists, an exhibition group modeled on the Impressionists in France.
The posed figure in An Outdoor Portrait of Miss Weir exemplifies the refined women at leisure who dominate the canvases of other turn-of-the-century Impressionist artists working in Boston and New York. Fashionably dressed in white, and shown amidst dappled sunlight that filters through the surrounding foliage, Miss Weir appears at once immobile and aloof as she gazes away from th.e viewer. Despite the fact that she occupies the majority of the canvas and her face is modeled with a series of relatively tight brush strokes (which contrast with the artist's looser treatment of the figure) little information is conveyed about the sitter's personality. Rather, Hassam appears more engaged with how to contrast Miss Weir's figure to and integrate it with the rather elaborate yet undefined outdoors view against which she is placed. The challenge Hassam confronted may explain why he later added a strip of canvas to the right side of the painting, enlarging the composition, and retained An Outdoor Portrait of Miss Weir throughout his lifetime.