Robert Vonnoh

Life Dates

Vonnoh was one of the earliest American proponents of French Impressionism. Having studied at the Massachusetts Normal Art Club in Boston, he went to Paris in 1880. Impressionism was not yet a decade old and was taking Paris by storm. Vonnoh, an ambitious, twenty-two-year-old artist, attended the Académie Julian in Paris. He joined the art colony at Grez-sur-Loing, France, and began experimenting in his landscape paintings, adopting the Impressionists’ preference for direct, outdoor painting and loose, suggestive brushwork of unmixed colors. Vonnoh brought this modern approach to Philadelphia as an instructor in 1891. He taught at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts until 1896, and the impact of his ideas was very great. As an instructor, he shaped the ideas of many of the artists who would themselves become leaders of American Impressionism, including Walter Elmer Schofield, Edward Willis Redfield, and William Glackens—all represented in Woodmere's collection. In the years that followed, Vonnoh exhibited nationally and internationally and produced successful society portraits for Philadelphia, New York, and Chicago elites. He and his second wife, sculptor Bessie Potter, summered at the artist colonies in Old Lyme and Cos Cob, Connecticut. These and other stimulating communities in unspoiled rural locations fostered the development of American Impressionism. He died in France in 1933 and is buried in Nice.

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