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John H. Twachtman

Born: 1853, Cincinnati, Ohio, United States of America
Died: 1902, Gloucester, Massachusetts, United States of America

Road near Honfleur
c. 1885

Oil on paper mounted on canvas
Image: 30 x 21 in. (76.2 x 53.3 cm)
Frame: 38 9/16 x 29 3/8 in. (97.9 x 74.6 cm)
Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1989.15
Signed: Lower right: J.H. Twachtman-
Artist Name: []

Interpretation

John Henry Twachtman’s Road Near Honfleur depicts the curving coastal road between the towns of Trouville and Honfleur in the French Atlantic province of Normandy. The vertical composition, echoed by the slender trees, emphasizes the depth of space defined by the receding track as it winds past a farmhouse nestled in the hillside. Muted light is diffused over the scene, which is thinly painted in a harmonious palette of cool, silvery greens. Forms are generalized, and even the palpable sense of atmosphere is subordinated to poetic evocation and to a sense of decorative design in the arrangement of the elements of the scene.

Road Near Honfleur probably was painted in 1885, during the second of two consecutive summers that the artist spent in Normandy during vacations from his studies at the Académie Julian in Paris. Twachtman followed the practice common to many painters of deserting the city for rural locales during the summer months: there, he abandoned his study of the figure and indulged his passion for landscape. The area near Honfleur had long attracted artists, especially after the opening of the railway in 1862 allowed easy access from Paris; in the mid-1860s, Claude Monet (1840–1926), leader of the French impressionist painters, made the Trouville-Honfleur road the subject of his first essay in serial painting. For Twachtman, the setting also inspired a closely related etching, French Landscape, (TF 2004.2) and the painting The River (TF 1989.1) (both in the Terra Foundation’s collection), as well as the masterpiece of his early career, Arques-la-Bataille of 1885 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). These works’ spare, elegant design, flattening of perspective, and high horizon reveal Twachtman’s indebtedness to Japanese woodcut prints, perhaps also the inspiration for the vertical orientation of Road Near Honfleur. The work’s sensuous pastoralism, however, indicates his study of seventeenth-century Dutch landscape paintings, which often feature a road winding into the distance, while the restrained, silvery palette favored by Twachtman in this period demonstrates the influence of his friend, French painter Jules Bastien-Lepage (1848–1884).

Road Near Honfleur marks the transition from the artist’s early manner, which was heavily influenced by the dark tonalities and laden brushwork of the Munich School in which he had first trained, to the lighter, more poetic approach that would define his mature style. The moodiness of the scene arises not only from its somber light and evocation of quiet, windswept desolation, but from such formal elements as the cool, muted color scheme; the confined, vertically oriented view; and the blurring effect of the soft, brushy definition of forms. In Road Near Honfleur, Twachtman progressed toward a subjective landscape of mood founded as much on style as on setting.

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Provenance

The artist
Howard Young Gallery, New York, by 1923
Frederic W. Porter, Cleveland, Ohio, 1923
Descended in family
Terra Foundation for the Arts Collection, Chicago, Illinois, 1989

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Exhibition History

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. [exh. cat.]

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.]

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.

Collection Cameo, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, April 2003.

American Classics, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, December 13, 2003–February 8, 2004.

Expanded Galleries of American Art with Loans from the Terra Foundation for American Art Collection, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, April 15, 2005–present.

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Published References

Thorpe, Jonathan. "John H. Twachtman." The Arts 2 (October 1921): 5–10. Text p. 5.

Wickenden, Robert J. The Arts and Etchings of John Henry Twachtman. New York: Frederick Keppel & Co., 1921. Text p. 29.

"Old and New: George Inness, J. H. Twachtman and Some Others." New York Tribune (January 7, 1923): n. p. Ill.

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 p. 208; pl. 48, p. 209 (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 p. 208; pl. 48, p. 209 (color).

Baskett, Mary Welsh. John Henry Twachtman: American Impressionist, Painter as a Printmaker. A Catalogue Raisonné of His Prints. New York: M. Hausberg, 1999. Fig. 32, p. 17 (black & white).

Peters, Lisa N. John Henry Twachtman: An American Impressionist. (exh. cat., High Museum of Art). Atlanta, Georgia: High Museum of Art, 1999. Text p. 62.

Denny, Margaret. Road Near Honfleur, John Henry Twachtman. Collection Cameo sheet, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, April 2003. Ill. (color).

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