Impression and Reality

Last updated on April 07, 2023

Woman with vase, pouring drink into glass.

IMPRESSION AND REALITY at the Mennello Museum of American Art

February 24 – June 11, 2023

ORLANDO, FLORIDA [April 4, 2023] — From the late 1800s through the 1920s, two important stylistic movements of early 20th century Art History coexisted – American Impressionism and Realism. These artists’ styles overlapped in time and a loose, impressionistic brushstroke, but transected in their subject matter. Today, those paintings highlight the diversity of American artists’ experiences, mentorships, training, and locations at the turn of the century, all while industrializing city centers of the United States – Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco, and New York – were exponentially expanding.

Impression and Reality presents paintings of American Impressionism and Realism from the Mennello collection alongside important works from prestigious Florida museums. It considers the dichotomy between these two cooccurring philosophies – one that highlights light, nature, and the temporary pleasures or luxuries of life and the other that emphasizes the harsh, strenuous conditions of ordinary life in the growing urban cities.

Mennello Museum of American Art is delighted to showcase 34 paintings and 3 works on paper by the most celebrated artists of early 20th-century art in the United States. Preeminent artists of their time on display include artists like John White Alexander, Frederick Carl Frieseke, and Henry Salem Hubbell alongside lesser-known, but equally important contemporaries Lydia Field Emmett, Jane Peterson, and Lilla Cabot Perry – to name a few. This exhibition brings together beloved artists from collections across Florida including the Mennello Museum’s own collection, the Marilyn and Michael Mennello Foundation, and significant loans from the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, the Harn Museum of Art, Museum of Florida History, Rollins Museum of Art, Tampa Museum of Art.

Shannon Fitzgerald, Executive Director, shares:

It is rewarding to share such compelling examples of American impressionism alongside emerging realism that was occurring in the United States nearly simultaneously. The exhibition offers a dynamic consideration ranging from intimate interior domestic scenes to increasing public enjoyment of urban parks, to the urbanization of cities and the rise of artists’ colonies and retreats from such cities. Impression and Reality compress such images to share more varied experiences with wider audiences.

The exhibition considers artists’ interests in depicting humanity’s varied experiences of life in urban and bucolic landscapes, their interest in domesticated and untamed landscapes at home and abroad, as well as the social mores and representation of women. These myriad reflections ask the viewer to consider both artistic movements in their shared time and space and highlight underrecognized women who were also creating, marketing, and participating in these movements.

In this exhibition, Lydia Field Emmet’s commissioned, and Robert Henri’s studio portraiture brings into focus a consideration of who is painted and why in the late 19th to early 20th century United States. The layered history of the American Impressionism movement – from the maritime opening of western trade with Japan and the subsequent importation of material culture, which included the highly influential Japanese ukiyo-e prints, up to the movement's prominence in Europe before the United States – is beautifully encapsulated in the life of painter Lila Cabot Perry who, like Marry Cassatt, was able to travel to Japan as well as train in France’s green countryside, Giverny. The tonal impressions of Henry Ward Ranger’s dreary Quebec docks connect with the perilous waves of Laura Woodward’s Blowing Rock seascape while the vivid brushstrokes of John Sloan’s rocky, Gloucester coastlines juxtapose with Theresa Ferber Bernstein’s wind-swept, Florida treetops. Finally, the dappled, bright light of Childe Hassam’s countryside gives way to a modern concern for expressive, low-key color, which creates a captivating contrast between the landscapes inspired by French Impressionism and the landscapes of Ashcan School artists like William Glackens and George Bellows.


Katherine Page, Curator Art and Education at Mennello Museum of American Art, states:
What I enjoy most about this project is the way in which we can see both working and leisure classes reflected in portraiture and landscapes. Combining the two movements into one exhibition enables consideration of a more holistic understanding of the historical context surrounding the artists and their works.” She continues, “The presence of women in the art industry at the turn of the century has, until recently, been drastically overlooked. It is exciting to see so many of those excluded artists alongside recognizable names, demonstrating their own strong contributions to art history.


IMPRESSION AND REALITY is organized by the Mennello Museum of American Art and curated by Katherine Page, Curator of Art and Education, Mennello Museum of American Art.
Mennello Museum of American Art and its exhibitions are generously supported by the City of Orlando and Friends of the Mennello Museum of American Art. Additional funding is provided by Orange County Government through the Arts & Cultural Affairs Program and United Arts of Central Florida. Sponsored in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture.


Karl J. Anderson, The Green Pitcher, 1913. Oil on canvas. Courtesy of The Michael A. and The Honorable Marilyn Logsdon Mennello Foundation.

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