Joseph Kleitsch, “The Blue Thread,” 1926, oil on canvas, 60 1/8 x 55 1/8 inches

The sudden burst and influx of French Impressionism into the hearts and minds of American artists at the turn of the 20th century is a well documented phenomenon that resulted in several generations of fantastic painters, particularly in California.

Heather James Fine Art in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is currently paying homage to California Impressionism during a stunning exhibition on view through the end of May. Approximately 12 paintings compose the show by artists such as John Frost, Joseph Kleitsch, William Wendt, Jessie Arms Botke, Gehring Cressey, Paul Lauritz, John Marshall Gamble, Millard Sheets, and Jack Wilkinson Smith.

John Frost, “Lake Walensee, Switzerland,” 1917, oil on canvas, 100 x 98 inches, Private collection

“Many American and European artists traveled to France to study with the French Impressionists, and were inspired by the en plein air style of painting,” the gallery writes. “An influx of French-trained Impressionists settled in California around the turn of the 20th century, finding that between the similarity in lighting and colors to the French countryside and the vast expanse of varying landscapes to explore, California provided an endless supply of painterly inspiration.

Joseph Kleitsch, “Woman in Pink,” circa 1915-20, oil on canvas, 40 3/8 x 28 1/8 inches

“California Impressionism flourished as a distinct subset of American Impressionism, notably brighter, sunnier, and more upbeat than their East Coast counterparts in keeping with the climate and feel of the California landscape. They depicted the state’s exceptional beauty with a focus on the coastlines of Laguna Beach, the canyons and deserts of inland oasis Palm Springs, and the craggy mountains and fertile valleys in between. Artist colonies, communities, schools, and exhibition spaces popped up around them as more and more artists flocked to the area. Their influence helped to define the culture and attitude of the state and the cities in which they lived and worked.”

William Wendt, “Spring,” 1916, oil on canvas, 40 x 50 inches, private collection

To learn more, visit Heather James Fine Art.

This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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