Hugh Henry Breckenridge

Life Dates

Breckenridge was an important artist in American art through several turns of styles, through both his own work and his influence on generations of his students. From academic portraits through expressive abstractions, Breckenridge pursued a wide range of styles in the course of his long career.

Breckenridge was born in Leesburg, Pennsylvania, and began studying art at a young age. He enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1887, at the age of 17. While at school, Breckenridge, together with Thomas Anshutz, opened the Darby School of Art. This school became a seed institution for the Pennsylvania Impressionist movement, and was attended by Daniel Garber, one of the preeminent artists of Pennsylvania Impressionism.

Upon completing his studies, in 1892, Breckenridge won a scholarship to study in Paris at the Académie Julian with Adolphe William Bouguereau and others. Breckenridge traveled with fellow artist Walter Schofield. Breckenridge returned from his Paris trip heavily influenced by the Impressionist movement, which had already peaked in Europe. His art reflected a keen interest in color and light. After his trip, he began teaching at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and would continue to teach there for 40 years.

Breckenridge and Schofield took a second trip to Europe in 1909, where Breckenridge turned his attention to Neo-Impressionism. After this trip, his work becomes more abstract, and he focuses on the landscape and painting en plein air, with thick, rapid brushstrokes. His palette is less pastel, and the forms in his work become more abstract, forming what he calls a tapestry.

Breckenridge never stopped being an art educator: In 1919 he became director of fine arts at the Maryland Institute in Baltimore, and in 1920, Breckenridge opened the Breckenridge School of Art in Gloucester, MA. As a reflection of the shifting styles around him, Breckenridge began working exclusively in Abstract art in 1922, creating works with color blocks and patternless fields on the canvas. His work in this period has been compared to that of Wassily Kandinsky

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