Americans Painting Abroad | September 14-16, 2023

American artists have always been drawn to the inspirations of Great Britain and the Continent. Completely different from our own, the history, culture, landscape, architecture, and art remains irresistible. Even in the nineteenth century artists made the arduous journey to broaden their artistic horizons. By the time of Jasper Francis Cropsey’s first visit abroad in 1847, America had a firmly established and respected “school;” of its own, about to enter its so-called second generation. The country was enthusiastically patronizing American born artists painting American subject matter, but England and Europe still beckoned. Cropsey visited England many times and found a great measure of success there, but the 1847 journey would include his only visit to Italy. The small but intense Sunset Over Lake Thrasemine, 1881, painted from studies and sketches almost forty years after his only visit there, is still rich, fresh, and seemingly spontaneous, as if viewed yesterday. The scene is also imbued with the vibrance, spirit, light, and autumn colors that are hallmarks of Cropsey’s mature work.

For Thomas Moran, his first trip from America back to England, the country of his birth, introduced him first hand to the work of his defining influence–J.M.W. Turner. He would travel back to Great Britain several times, painting the landscape of Scotland and Wales with the same awe inspiring drama and sublimity that he captured in his most famous paintings of the American West. The swirling atmosphere and rugged landscape seen in th 1885 On the Welsh Coast shows Moran at his best, with locale being the only real difference between this and a hot springs or Grand Canyon scene.

William Thompson Russell Smith’s painting of the Genoese Coast reflects a very different approach to the European experience. Smith was naturally influenced by the romantic vision of Thomas Cole and Thomas Doughty in this country, as most artists were. He traveled abroad in 1851, a mere three years after Cole’s death. Sestri, Coast of Genoa, is a scene fully informed by the master’s tenets, and enhanced by the inherent drama of the ancient Italian seacoast, much like the Italian or English ruins enhanced Cole’s romances.

Wilson Irvine, Arthur Grover Rider, and Ossip Linde brought the fresh light and brushstroke of American Impressionism to their paintings of European seacoasts. Irvine visited the “Venice of Provence” in the late 1920s, just a few years after Rider had made his journey to Valencia, and probably the same time that Linde visited Venice, Italy. The literal and metaphorical charm and patina offered by those centuries old locales distinguished them from American subjects, and allowed the artists to create stunning scenes like Rider’s On the Spanish Coast, Irvine’s Martigues, France, and Linde’s Market Day, Venice.

For more information, please contact American painting specialist, Nan Zander at 828-254-6846 or

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