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Theodore Robinson

Born: 1852, Irasburg, Vermont, United States of America
Died: 1896, New York, New York, United States of America

Blossoms at Giverny
1891–92

Oil on canvas
Image: 21 5/8 x 20 1/8 in. (54.9 x 51.1 cm)
Frame: 28 7/8 x 27 5/8 in. (73.3 x 70.2 cm)
Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1992.130
Signed: Unsigned
Artist Name: []
Markings: Graphite grid marks visible

Interpretation

Blossoms at Giverny is one of two closely related paintings by Theodore Robinson that show views looking down on figures walking beneath blossom-laden apple trees in the bright sunlight of springtime. A little girl and a woman carrying a watering can almost blend in with the screen of slender branches and fluffy white blossoms and the dappled shadows they cast on the ground. Robinson probably captured the view from a window of his upstairs studio in Giverny, the rural village in Normandy, France, where he worked between 1888 and 1892. The almost perfectly square proportions of the canvas and the tipped-up, horizonless composition, in which forms are arbitrarily cropped at the edges, suggest the contributions of both photography and Japanese prints to the artist’s maturing impressionist approach. The subject and composition of Blossoms at Giverny also reflect the influence of the artist’s friend and mentor, Claude Monet (1840–1926), a leader of the impressionist movement and Giverny’s most famous resident after 1883. Robinson certainly knew Monet’s Spring (Fruit Trees in Bloom) (1873; Metropolitan Museum of Art), an elevated view of a blossoming apple orchard, for it illustrated his admiring essay on the French painter published in the American magazine The Century in 1892.

Traces of grid lines in pencil indicate that Robinson may have worked from a photograph of the scene, as he did in other works. The artist, who suffered greatly from asthma, used photography to avoid the physical strain of long periods spent painting out-of-doors; the practice also saved him the expense of hired models. Ironically, painting from photographs helped Robinson realize the impressionist ideal of capturing the scene before him with fresh, seemingly unedited immediacy. As an outdoor scene glimpsed—and painted—from within the shelter of the studio interior, Blossoms at Giverny embodies Robinson’s reconciliation of traditional methods of painting in-studio from props, such as photographic studies, and the impressionist method of painting outdoor subjects on-site as they immediately appear.

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Provenance

The artist
Mrs. William McIlvaine, Jr.
Daniel J. Terra Collection, Chicago, Illinois, 1984
Terra Foundation for the Arts Collection, Chicago, Illinois, 1992

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Exhibition History

Two Hundred Years of American Painting From Private Chicago Collections, Terra Museum of American Art, Evanston, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Evanston, Illinois, June 25–September 2, 1983. [exh. cat.]

Masterworks in American Art from the Daniel J. Terra Collection, Terra Museum of American Art, Evanston, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Evanston, Illinois, April 27–September 12, 1985.

A Proud Heritage: Two Centuries of American Art, Terra Museum of American Art, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, April 21–June 21, 1987. [exh. cat.]

An American Revelation: The Daniel J. Terra Collection, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, February 28–October 1, 1988.

American Painters in France, 1830–1930, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, June 14–September 3, 1989. [exh. cat.]

From Camera to Canvas: Theodore Robinson's French Photographs and Paintings, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, April 24–July 1, 1990.

Impressions de toujours: les peintres américains en France, 1865–1915 (Lasting Impressions: American Painters in France, 1865–1915), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, June 1–November 1, 1992; April 1–October 31, 1993; April 1–October 30, 1994; April 1–October 31, 1995. [exh. cat.]

Giverny: une impression américaine (Giverny, An American Impression), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 1–November 1, 1998.

Ville et campagne: les artistes américains, 1870–1920 (The City and the Country: American Perspectives, 1870–1920), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 1–July 15, 1999. [exh. cat.]

Première exposition: les carnets de dessins et les photographies de Theodore Robinson (First Exposure: The Sketchbooks and Photographs of Theodore Robinson), Musee d'Art Americain Giverny, France (organizer). Venues: Musee d'Art Americain Giverny, France, April 1–July 13, 2000; Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, October 14–December 31, 2000 (in modified form). [exh. cat.]

Collection Cameo, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, January 2001.

Giverny au fil des saisons (Giverny in All Seasons), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 1–November 30, 2001.

D'une colonie à une collection: le Musée d'Art Américain Giverny fête ses dix ans (From a Colony to a Collection: Celebrating the Tenth Anniversary of the Musée d'Art Américain Giverny), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, March 30–June 16, 2002 (on exhibit extended run: March 30–November 30, 2002).

Giverny en fleurs (Giverny in Bloom), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, March 2–November 30, 2003.

En plein air: personnages dans un paysage (En Plein Air: Figures in a Landscape), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 1–October 31, 2004 (on exhibit partial run: April 1–July 5, 2004).

In Monet's Light: Theodore Robinson at Giverny, Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, Maryland (organizer). Venues: Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, Maryland, October 17, 2004–January 9, 2005; Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, Arizona, February 4–May 8, 2005; Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut, June 4–September 4, 2005. [exh. cat.]

Impressionist Giverny: A Colony of Artists, 1885–1915 (Giverny impressionniste: une colonie d’artistes, 1885-1915), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venues: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 1–July 1, 2007; San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, CA, July 21–October 14, 2007. [exh. cat.]

Impressionist Giverny: The Americans, 1885-1915, Selections from the Terra Foundation for American Art, Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venues: Florence Griswold Museum of Art, Old Lyme, Connecticut, May 3–July 27, 2008; Albany Institute of History & Art, Albany, New York, August 23, 2008–January 4, 2009.

Monet and the Artists of Giverny: The Beginning of American Impressionism, The Bunkamura Museum of Art, Tokyo, Japan with the Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizers). Venues: Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art, Kitakyushu, Japan, October 9–November 28, 2010; The Bunkamura Museum of Art, Tokyo, Japan, December 7, 2010–February 17, 2011; The Okayama Prefectural Museum of Art, Okayama, Japan, February 25–April 10, 2011. [exh. cat.]

American Impressionism: a New Vision, 1880–1900 (L'Impressionnisme et les Américains/Impresionismo Americano (French & Spanish titles), Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny, Giverny, France and the Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago, Illinois in collaboration with the National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, United Kingdom and the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Spain (organizers). Venues: Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny, Giverny, France, March 28–June 29, 2014; Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, United Kingdom, July 19–October 19, 2014; Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Spain, November 4, 2014–February 1, 2015. [exh. cat.]

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Published References

Sokol, David. Two Hundred Years of American Painting from Private Chicago Collections. (exh. cat., Terra Museum of American Art). Evanston, Illinois: Terra Museum of American Art, 1983. Text p. 34; ill. frontispiece, p. 1 (color).

Atkinson, D. Scott et al. A Proud Heritage: Two Centuries of American Art. Edited by Terry A. Neff. (exh. cat., Terra Museum of American Art). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 1987. Pl. T-77, p. 186 (color).

Shelby, Carole. American Painters in France, 1830–1930. (exh. cat., Terra Museum of American Art). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 1989. Text cat. no. 32 (checklist).

Southgate, Therese. "The Cover." The Journal of the American Medical Association 265, no. 17 (May 1991): cover, 2159. Text p. 2159; ill. cover (color).

Gerdts, William H. et al. Lasting Impressions: American Painters in France, 1865–1915. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 1992. Text pp. 53, 133, 134, 183; ill. p. 136, pl. 4 (color).

Gerdts, William H. et al. Impressions de toujours: les peintres américains en France, 1865–1915. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 1992. Text pp. 52–53, 133–134, 182–183; ill. p. 136, pl. 4 (color).

Gomes, Rosalie. Impressions of Giverny: A Painter's Paradise 1883–1914. San Francisco, California: Pomegranate Artbooks, 1995. Text pp. 55, 114; ill. p. 59, pl. 38 (color).

Regard sur cinq années d'expositions (Five years of Exhibitions at a Glance). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 1997. Text p. 53 (checklist).

Cartwright, Derrick R. The City and the Country: American Perspectives, 1870–1920. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 1999. Text p. 26 (checklist); ill. p. 48 (color).

Cartwright, Derrick R. Ville et campagne: les artistes américains, 1870–1920. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 1999. Text p. 26 (checklist); ill. p. 48 (color).

Joyes, Claire. The Taste of Giverny: At Home with Monet and the American Impressionists. Paris, France: Flammarion, 2000 Ill. p. 117 (color).

Mayer, Stephanie. First Exposure: The Sketchbooks and Photographs of Theodore Robinson. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2000. Ill. p. 49 (color).

Mayer, Stephanie. Theodore Robinson. Esquisses et photographies. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2000. Ill. p. 49 (color).

Mayer, Stephanie. Blossoms at Giverny, Theodore Robinson. Collection Cameo sheet, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, January 2001. Ill. (color).

Johnston, Sona. In Monet's Light: Theodore Robinson at Giverny. (exh. cat., The Baltimore Museum of Art). Baltimore, Maryland: The Baltimore Museum of Art, 2004. Text p. 164; ill. p. 164, cat. no. 49 (color).

Bourguignon, Katherine M. et al. Impressionist Giverny: A Colony of Artists, 1885–1915. (exh. cat. Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for American Art, 2007. Text pp. 103, 210 (checklist); ill. p. 124 (color).

Bourguignon, Katherine M. et al. Giverny impressionniste: une Colonie d’artistes, 1885–1915. (exh. cat. Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for American Art, 2007. Text pp. 103, 211 (checklist); ill. cat. p. 124 (color).

Mauvoisin, Jacques and Gwenaëlle Ledot. Écrivins de Normandie. Saint-Lô, France: Normandie Magazine, 2007. Ill. p. 102 (color).

Bourguignon, Katherine M. "Impressionist Giverny: American Painters in France." American Art Review 20, no. 3 (June 2008): 100–113. Ill. p. 111 (color).

Bourguignon, Katherine M., Shunsuke Kijima and Sanjiro Minamikawa. Monet and the Artists of Giverny: The Beginning of American Impressionism. (exh. cat. Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art, The Bunkamura Museum of Art, Tokyo, and The Okayama Prefectural Museum of Art). Fukuoka, Japan: The Nishinippon Shimbun, 2010. Text cat. no. 58, pp. 111 (in Japanese), 186 (in English); ill. p. 110 (color).

Southgate, M. Therese. The Art of JAMA III: Covers and Essays from the Journal of the American Medical Association. Chicago, Illinois: American Medical Association, 2011. Text pp. 34, 202; ill. opposite p. 34 (color).

Bourguignon, Katherine M. American Impressionism: A New Vision 1880–1900. (exh. cat., Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny, National Galleries of Scotland, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza). Giverny, France: Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny, 2014. Text pp. 32, 40; ill. p. 51 (color), p. 80 (color).

Bourguignon, Katherine M. L’impressionisme et les américains, 1880–1900. (exh. cat., Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny, National Galleries of Scotland, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza). Giverny, France: Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny, 2014. Text pp. 32, 40; ill. p. 80 (color).

Bourguignon, Katherine M. Impresionismo Americano. (exh. cat., Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny, National Galleries of Scotland, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza). Madrid: Museo Thyssen Bornemisza, 2014. Text pp. 32, 40; ill. p. 80 (color).

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