switch views:
  • view lightbox
  • view single item
  • view list

John Leslie Breck

Born: 1860, Hong Kong, China
Died: 1899, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America

Morning Fog and Sun
1892

Oil on canvas
Overall: 32 x 46 3/16in. (81.3 x 117.3cm)
Frame: 45 7/8 × 59 5/8 × 3 3/4in. (116.5 × 151.4 × 9.5cm)
Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.19
Signed: Lower left: JOHN LESLIE BRECK-1892
Artist Name: []

Interpretation

Morning Fog and Sun by John Leslie Breck presents a smoothly harvested field dominated by rotund mountains of stacked grain crowned by long poles. Beyond the low wall and a line of greenery bounding the field on the far side rise three tall poplar trees. The view eastward into the blinding light of the early morning sun reduces the entire scene—even the long shadows cast by the stacks—into generalized, flattened forms partly dissolved in the suffusing glow of the sun. The smoothed-out surfaces of ground and hay mounds are rendered by dense combinations of short, choppy brushstrokes of contrasting color that, viewed from a distance, blend to mimic the subtly vibrating effect of the light; the sky, in contrast, is painted with more smoothly blended strokes. Breck’s portrayal of a simple rural landscape is foremost an exercise in reproducing in paint the optical experience of moisture-laden atmosphere illuminated by glancing sunlight. The matte surface of the painting, which Breck left unvarnished in defiance of traditional methods, enhances the effects of its flickering color and dense surface.

Breck probably began Morning Fog and Sun before his final departure from Giverny, in Normandy, France, where he worked for much of the five years between 1887 and 1891. He first arrived in the rural village as one of a host of visiting American art students in Paris who founded a colony of sorts beginning in the late 1880s, lured by the village’s inexpensive living, proximity to Paris, and picturesque surroundings. Many, including Breck, also were attracted by the presence of painter Claude Monet (1840–1926), a resident of the town since 1883. Under Monet’s influence, Breck in particular adopted the divided brushstrokes, pure color, and open-air painting practices of the mode known as impressionism. One of the few Americans admitted to Monet’s inner circle, Breck also emulated his mentor’s subjects. He turned his attention to grainstacks soon after Monet began to paint them intensively beginning in 1890. Morning Fog and Sun is one of at least three treatments of the subject that Breck made in addition to his series of fifteen Studies of an Autumn Day, of which there are twelve surviving works (TF 1989.4.1-12). This painting may have been unfinished when Breck left Giverny permanently late in 1891 after Monet severed their relationship, apparently alarmed by the American’s romantic attentions to his stepdaughter Blanche Hoschéde. Breck probably completed or at least signed it in England, to which he traveled after his departure from Giverny, or in Boston on his subsequent return to the United States.

One of the Studies of an Autumn Day (TF 1989.4.3), in which the flooding light of the risen sun reduces the scene to an near-abstract arrangement of flattened, fantastically tinted shapes, may have served as a model for the peculiar light conditions shown in Morning Fog and Sun, which (in contrast to the Studies) was completed in the studio. This painting evidently shows virtually the same scene as the series, with the viewpoint shifted slightly to the right to reveal the distant village while cutting off the view of the farm buildings on the left, seen more fully in the Studies. Nonetheless, the composition of the larger painting, particularly the relative arrangement of the haystacks, is independent of the series. When first exhibited in the United States in Boston in 1893, Morning Fog and Sun was hailed by critics for the brilliance of its light effects and its lyrical beauty.

Return to top

Provenance

The artist
Mr. Edward T. Rice, 1899 (believed to be artist's step-uncle)
Thomas Rice Varick, Manchester, New Hampshire, by 1909
Margaret Codaire Sproul-Bolton, Manchester, New Hampshire, 1940s
Rum Hill Antiques, Concord, New Hampshire (agent), Sotheby's, New York, New York, November 29, 1990, lot 56
Berry-Hill Galleries Inc., New York, New York (agent), Daniel J. Terra Collection, Chicago, Illinois, 1991
Terra Foundation for the Arts Collection, Chicago, Illinois, 1999

Return to top

Exhibition History

Exhibition, J. Eastman Chase Gallery, Boston, Massachusetts, January 1893, no. 2 (as Morning Fog and Sun).

Memorial Exhibition of Paintings by John Leslie Breck, St. Botolph Club, Boston, Massachusetts, May 1899, no. 1 (as Haystacks at Giverny).

Memorial Exhibition of Paintings by John Leslie Breck, National Arts Club, New York, New York, February 24–March 10, 1900, no. 1 (as Sun and Fog).

Loan to Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts, November 1909–January 1910.

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.]

American Artists and the French Experience, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, April 12–August 27, 1997.

American Artists and the Paris Experience, 1880–1910, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, November 22, 1997–March 8, 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.]

Exhibition reciprocal loan, Musée municipal A.G. Poulain, Vernon, France, April 1–July 2, 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-September 13, 2002).

A Place on the Avenue: Terra Museum of American Art Celebrates 15 Years in Chicago, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, November 16, 2002–February 16, 2003.

American Classics from the Collection, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, May 14–June 15, 2003.

Studied Abroad: Painted Impressions from the Collection, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, September 6, 2003–April 4, 2004.

Le Passage à Paris: les artistes américains en France, 1860–1930 (Passing through Paris: American Artists in France, 1860–1930), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, April 1–October 31, 2005. [exh. brochure]

Impressionist Giverny: A Colony of Artists, 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.]

Return to top

Published References

Sotheby's, New York, New York (Sale 6109, November 29, 1990): lot 56. Text and ill. lot 56 (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. Pl. 19, p. 161 (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. Pl. 19, p. 161 (color).

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 pp. 18, 23 (checklist); ill. p. 18 (black & white).

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 pp. 18, 23 (checklist); ill. p. 18 (black & white).

Joyes, Claire. The Taste of Giverny: At Home with Monet and the American Impressionists. Paris, France: Flammarion, 2000. Ill. pp. 26–27 (color).

Bourguignon, Katherine M. and Elizabeth Kennedy. An American Point of View: The Daniel J. Terra Collection. Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2002. Text pp. 124, 191–92; ill. pp. 12 (color), 125 (color), 191 (black & white).

Bourguignon, Katherine M. and Elizabeth Kennedy. Un regard transatlantique. La collection d'art américain de Daniel J. Terra. Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2002. Text pp. 124, 191–92; ill. pp. 12 (color), 125 (color), 191 (black & white).

Griffith, Bronwyn A. E. Passing Through Paris: Americans in France, 1860–1930. (exh. brochure, Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for American Art, 2005. Text n.p.; fig. 7, n.p. (color).

Griffith, Bronwyn A. E. Le Passage à Paris: les artistes américains en France, 1860–1930. (exh. brochure, Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for American Art, 2005. Text n.p.; fig. 7, n.p. (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. 23, 36, 204 (checklist); ill. p. 100 (color detail), 110 (color).

Mauvoisin, Jacques and Gwenaëlle Ledot. Écrivins de Normandie. Saint-Lô, France: Normandie Magazine, 2007. Ill. p. 103 (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. 48, pp. 96 (in Japanese), 185 (in English); ill. p. 96 (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. (English, French and Spanish versions). Text p. 32; ill. p. 83 (color).

Return to top

Sign on