Mint Museum in Charlotte Showcases Art by American Impressionist John Leslie Breck | DFA 90.7
In the late 1800s, Impressionism was one of the hottest topics in the art world. The painting style of the moment, often in nature, with visible brushstrokes, was both loved and hated. The French painter Claude Monet is considered the standard bearer of the style, but American art connoisseurs of the time would also have associated another name with Impressionism: John Leslie Breck.
A showcase of the American painter’s work in 1890 was even featured by the Boston Evening Transcript as the artistic sensation of the season. Breck grew up in Massachusetts but then moved to France, studied in Paris and eventually met Monet in Giverny, where his Impressionist art flourished. This show in Boston in 1890, during his visit, is believed to have helped introduce the style to the United States.
“He continued to show his Impressionist paintings in Boston every two years and received excellent reviews and truly became a sort of heir to Monet’s legacy in American art and one of the recognized leaders for bringing Impressionism to America, “said John Stuhlman, senior curator of American art at Charlotte’s Mint Museum.
The rising star died nine years later at the age of 38.
“His death is tragic,” Stuhlman said. “One wonders what he would have done beyond Impressionism after the turn of the 20th century.”
Breck’s work has been largely forgotten. Stuhlman says many paintings that were not sold during his lifetime have been found with members of his family. Information on Breck’s life is harder to find than that of other well-known Impressionist peers, and only a handful of American museums have his art.
But from this weekend, more than 70 paintings by Breck will be exhibited in the chic district of the Currency Museum. According to the museum, this is the first retrospective of Breck’s paintings since his death.
La Monnaie obtained its first painting by Breck – the canvas “Suzanne Hoschede-Monet CoutureWhich depicts one of Monet’s daughters-in-law – in 2016. Museum staff have been working on the exhibit for years. But Stuhlman says he’s been learning more about Breck since the 1990s, when he first saw the American Impressionist’s work.
“I think it’s that kind of a mystery to find out more and try to understand, how artists who in their day are highly regarded and well known get lost in our history,” Stuhlman said. “Then you need someone to rediscover and help bring them back to light.”
So Stuhlman and others did. In addition to being the curator of the exhibition, he is one of the many Breck researchers who have contributed to the drafting of a catalog on the artist and his work which will be available at La Monnaie.
Most of the paintings on display have not been seen by the public for over 100 years. Some of the pieces are from members of the Breck family, other private collections, and the Terra Foundation for American Art.
Stuhlman said Breck’s descendants were more than willing to lend his art for the exhibition.
“They were certainly aware that there had never been a major retrospective of his work since his death in 1899, and I think they were certainly delighted that he was receiving his due, so to speak,” Stuhlman said. .
Stuhlman says that Breck’s paintings are unique although distinctly impressionistic. For example, one of Monet’s most famous series included paintings of haystacks depicted at different times of the year. Breck did a similar series but instead focused on how the haystacks looked at different times of the day. Twelve of them are on display at the Mint, along with paintings depicting coastal Massachusetts landscapes, apple trees and other natural landscapes.
One of Stuhlman’s favorite works on display is a painting titled “Silence.”
“It’s just a beautiful scene overlooking a little tributary of the Charles River,” Stuhlman said. “It’s that twilight hour of the day, and it’s just a beautiful painting with beautiful greens, blues and purples and a hint of orange in the sky.”
The majority of Breck’s work focuses on landscapes rather than portraits, which sets him apart from many contemporaries.
“If you love the natural world,” Stuhlman said of the exhibit, “this is a great place to get lost. “
“John Leslie Breck: American Impressionist”Opens Saturday at the Mint Museum Uptown. Admission is free all weekend. There will be live music at 1 p.m. Saturday, followed by a discussion of Breck’s work and a catalog signing with Stuhlman. Stuhlman and art historian Royal Leith will hold a discussion on Sunday at 2 p.m., followed by another catalog signing.