Transatlantic: American Artists in Germany

Exhibition Explores Artistic Exchange between Germany and America
Transatlantic: American Artists in Germany
Jan. 24–April 26, 2009

Transatlantic: American Artists in Germany, presented at the Frye Art Museum from January 24 through April 26, 2009, brings together key works from the Frye Collections by some of America’s most esteemed artists, including William Merritt Chase, Albert Bierstadt, and John White Alexander, who studied or lived in Germany during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. The exhibition is shown in conjunction with the landmark survey The Munich Secession and America, presented January 24 through April 26, 2009.

The influence of Europe, and especially France, on American intellectuals, writers, and artists in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has been addressed on numerous occasions in exhibitions and academic volumes. Less often examined, but equally important, were America’s close ties to Germany, where American artists sought inspiration and a place to study, as well as the opportunity to exhibit their works and build a career. In the mid-nineteenth century, artists such as William Merritt Chase, George Luks, John Twachtman, Albert Bierstadt, and John White Alexander studied at German art academies, including Düsseldorf and Munich. In 1878 Frank Duveneck opened a school in Munich and in the village of Polling in Bavaria. His students, known as the “Duveneck Boys” included, among others, Twachtman.

The prestige of being invited to join the Munich, Berlin, and Vienna Secessions, or exhibit with them, was accorded to a select few American artists. William Merritt Chase and Childe Hassam were, however, Corresponding Members of the Munich Secession while Gari Melchers was a Corresponding Member of both the Munich and the Vienna Secessions. Mary Cassatt showed her work with the Munich Secession in 1913 and 1914, and James Abbott McNeil Whistler, a Corresponding Member of the Vienna Secession, also exhibited at the Munich Secession in 1895.

Although each worked in his and her own style, these American artists painted portraits, landscapes, and genre scenes often closely linked to developments in German painting at that time, from symbolism and realism to the beginnings of abstraction and Jugendstil. The exhibition celebrates the contributions American artists made to these major movements in America and abroad, and demonstrates the key role they played as purveyors of artistic ideas across the Atlantic Ocean.

Transatlantic: American Artists in Germany is co-curated by Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker, Frye Art Museum Foundation scholar and Jayme Yahr, Frye Art Museum curatorial intern.

Frye Art Museum