John Leslie Breck (American, 1860–99). Suzanne Hoschedé Sewing, 1888, oil on canvas, 18 1/8 x 21 7/8 inches. The Mint Museum, Gift of the Mint Museum Auxiliary and courtesy Heather James Fine Art. 2016.25
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John Leslie Breck: American Impressionist

May 28, 2022 - August 28, 2022
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About

This exhibition explores the work, life, and career of the nineteenth-century American artist John Leslie Breck (1860–1899), who has been credited with being one of the first artists from this country to adopt Impressionism and to nurture its acceptance in the United States. Breck was born at sea off Hong Kong in 1860. After training in the United States, Germany, and France, he visited the town of Giverny, France for the first time with a small group of colleagues in 1887. He soon befriended Claude Monet and his family, helped lay the groundwork for Giverny to become an artist’s colony, and began his conversion to Impressionism. 

During a quick trip back to the United States in 1890-91, Breck was among the first to exhibit his new Impressionist paintings here and to use the style to depict the American landscape. He soon became known as one of the leaders of the movement in this country—a reputation that was enhanced by the work he did on a second trip to Giverny in 1891, a series of increasingly well-received exhibitions in Boston in the mid-1890s, and his final series of paintings of Venice after a trip there in 1897. Reviewing Breck’s first solo exhibition at the St. Botolph Club in 1891, the critic for the Boston Transcript called it “the art sensation of the season,” going on to say that “almost everybody in town has visited the exhibition and almost everybody is discussing it.” Two years later, another critic reflecting on the impact of this 1891 exhibition wrote that “a fierce controversy at once arose between the champions of the old…and the new… landscape schools. …Mr. Breck was at once recognized, by friend and foe, to be the American head [of the latter].” 

Upon Breck’s suicide in 1899, his colleague John Henry Twachtman, himself one of Impressionism’s American leaders, called Breck “a great genius” and the artist who had “started a new school of painting in America.” Despite the high regard in which Breck was ultimately held in Boston art circles and by his contemporaries at the end of his life, since his passing he largely has flown under the art historical radar. This is the first large scale, museum organized retrospective of Breck’s work since his memorial exhibition in 1899. It features more than seventy of his finest paintings, many of which have not been on public view since his death, as well as several related works by his colleagues. We hope you enjoy the opportunity to see for the first time so many of Breck’s groundbreaking paintings gathered in one place, to dive into the lush world of his landscapes, to reflect upon your own relationship with the natural world, and to consider anew Breck’s rich legacy

John Leslie Breck: American Impressionist is organized by the Mint Museum. The exhibition is generously presented by Bank of America, with additional support provided by The Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts and The Mint Museum Auxiliary.  


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