For the first time in 30 years a museum in the United States is hosting a exhibit dedicated solely to German Impressionism. This fact makes “A Variation of Impressionism” particularly relevant and it hopefully will introduce people to a facet of painting with which they are not particularly acquainted. Most Americans are familiar with French Impressionism but not with German Impressionism, a topic Professor Deshmukh touched upon in her lecture. During the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century, Americans often visited France and bought Impressionist artwork. Consequently, American museums (taken as a whole) have strong collections in French Impressionist artwork.
Impressionism came to Germany late, mostly due to the tense political relations between France and Germany following the Franco-Prussian War. When Impressionism finally began flourishing in Germany, the artists adhering to the movement had to overcome an unsupportive government. The German government preferred the more traditional classical school of painting, refusing to exhibit German Impressionist artwork.
Despite such setbacks, artists continued to produce Impressionist artwork and a new style of Impressionism was born in Germany. The artists Lovis Corinth, Max Liebermann, and Max Slevogt formed the Triumvirate of Impressionism.
One of my favorite paintings on display in the MFAH is Liebermann’s Country House in Hilversum—Villa in Hilversum (1901). The composition is particularly striking in that Liebermann uses a large tree to cut through the canvas, both obfuscating and framing the house. The house is truly integrated into the painting and although it is the focus, it does not dominate the canvas. The architecture does not fight against the natural surroundings.