Impressionism came to America over a century ago, and one of the first American artists to introduce the style to the U.S. was John Leslie Breck, whose work will be on view at the Figge beginning May 28.

John Leslie Breck: American Impressionist is organized by the Mint Museum and includes more than 70 of the artist’s works. It is the first-ever museum organized exhibition dedicated to his artwork. Many of the works have not been on public view in more than a century. In addition to Breck’s landscape paintings, the exhibition highlights his exploration of new styles and approaches to painting in the years before his death at the age of 38 in 1899. More than 10 related paintings by Breck’s French and American Impressionist colleagues, including Theodore Robinson, Willard Metcalf, and Lilla Cabot Perry, are also featured in the exhibition.

“Everyone knows Monet and Degas when thinking about Impressionism, but most people are unfamiliar with Breck and how important he was to American art and the Impressionist movement,” says Figge Executive Director and CEO Michelle Hargrave. “We are pleased to be able to feature his breathtaking work and give Breck his well-deserved time in the spotlight, thanks to the Mint Museum’s years of work to put this exhibition together.”

After training in the United States and France, Breck visited the town of Giverny, France for the first time with a small group of colleagues in 1887. He befriended Claude Monet and began his conversion to Impressionism. He also helped lay the groundwork for Giverny to become an artist’s colony. After returning to the U.S., he captured the subtle beauty of American landscape using the techniques he learned in Europe. An exhibition of his work in 1890 was described by the Boston Evening Transcript as the art sensation of the season.

“I love the way Breck finds beauty in quiet, otherwise nondescript spots – little nooks along the Charles River in the outskirts of Boston, wildflowers in a field, or the first dusting of snow in central Massachusetts’ rolling hills,” says Jonathan Stuhlman, PhD, senior curator of American art at the Mint Museum and curator of this exhibition.

The exhibit is an extraordinary opportunity to see Breck’s groundbreaking paintings, dive into the lush world of his landscapes, and reflect upon one’s own relationship with the natural world. “It gives our community the chance to view Breck’s amazing body of work,” said Figge Assistant Curator Vanessa Sage. “When looking at his paintings, you can sense how responsive he was to his surroundings and to nature. Hopefully, his work will inspire visitors to find a renewed appreciation for the environment in which we live.”

In celebration of this exhibition, the Figge wants the public’s photographs of the natural world, whether of the river, parks, or their own backyards. Share images exploring natural areas with the Figge via email and they will be displayed on their Facebook page and on a flat screen slide show at the museum. 

Email photos along with your name to figgephotography@gmail.com or tag them on Instagram at #BreckFiggePhotography. More information can be found here.  

John Leslie Breck: American Impressionist will be on view in the Figge’s third floor gallery through August 28.

The Figge has programs scheduled to compliment the exhibit, including:

  • Wednesday, June 1, 5-7 p.m.

John Leslie Breck: American Impressionist Member Opening

Figge members are invited to a special evening in celebration of John Leslie Breck: American Impressionist featuring a reception and private tours of the exhibition with Figge assistant curator Vanessa Sage. This event is free for members, but registration is required to attend. 

  • Thursday, June 2

Opening Program: John Leslie Breck

5 p.m., Cash bar

6:30 p.m., Curator Talk: Dr. Jonathan Stuhlman

Join Dr. Jonathan Stuhlman, the Mint Museum’s Senior Curator of American, Modern, & Contemporary Art, as he explores Breck’s work within the context of both European and American Impressionism.

  • Thursday, July 28

Scholar Talk: Amanda C. Burdan, 6:30 p.m.

Amanda C. Burdan is a senior curator at the Brandywine River Museum of Art and will speak about women artists and advocates, such as Lilla Cabot Perry, and how they contributed to the rise of American Impressionism.

  • Thursday, Aug 11

Partner Program, 6 p.m.

Visit the Figge’s outdoor Bechtel Plaza and join community partners in celebrating art, nature and the exhibition John Leslie Breck: American Impressionist.

The Figge Art Museum is located at 225 West Second Street in Davenport. Museum hours are 10 a.m.­­-5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. on Thursdays; and 12-5 p.m. on Sundays. Reservations are not required, but can be made by clicking here or by calling 563-345-6632. Admission to the museum is $10 for adults, $6 for seniors and students with ID and $4 children ages 4-12. Admission is free to Figge members, institutional members and to everyone on Thursday evenings. You can become a member for as little as $50 by visiting the Figge website. To contact the museum, please call 563-326-7804, or click here.