Exhibition: The Boston School Tradition: Truth, Beauty and Timeless Craft

Exhibition Information

Decamp 36367 web exhibition cover

Joseph DeCamp (1858-1923)
The Kreutzer Sonata (The Violinist II)

Boston school tradition catalogue cover
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On exhibition June 6, 2015 - August 1, 2015

We are pleased to announce that Cate McQuaid of the Boston Globe reviewed "The Boston School Tradition," which she described as an "ambitious exhibition." "There is much to see in 'The Boston School Tradition,'" she wrote, "with more than 70 paintings by dozens of artists, including deft and airy landscapes among the many portraits." To read the entire Boston Globe review in pdf format, please click here

The exhibition is accompanied by a seventy page catalogue with an essay by Trevor Fairbrother, author of The Bostonians, Painters of an Elegant Age, 1870-1930, available for $25 p.p

After being the first American city to embrace the radical French Barbizon style in the 1870s and 1880s, Boston’s artists continued their quest for innovative styles of painting, yet based their artistic foundation on the rigorous training and subject matter of the Dutch Masters and other Renaissance painters. Leading contemporary artists of the day—New England’s Winslow Homer and expatriates John Singer Sargent, and James McNeill Whistler— added their own admired painting ideals to the Boston School’s fusion of styles.The city’s artist/teachers who traveled to France, and most did, brought back the teachings of Monet and introduced impressionism to the public and to their protégés who studied at Boston’s constellation of leading art schools. From the 1870s to the 1920s, Boston became home to the most celebrated artists in America.

The Boston School Tradition includes over sixty fine examples by over forty artists, including the leading teachers of the movement— William Morris Hunt, Francis D. Millet, Frank Benson, Edmund Tarbell, Philip Hale, Ernest Lee Major, William Paxton, and Frederick Bosley—along with a collection of rare canvasses by Joseph DeCamp, one of the earlier Boston School teachers. Known collectively as the Boston School, these artists explored a range of subject matter, with figural works the most highly regarded and difficult to render. 

After focusing on the major teaching schools in Boston, the exhibition will highlight the studios, clubs and professional organizations that allowed artists to socialize, show, and work together, further strengthening their bonds as members of the Boston School. Civic leaders of the Boston community cultivated a supportive environment for these artists, providing financing and guidance, for example, in building Fenway Studios in 1905, an Arts and Crafts style building providing 45 live/work units for artists that is still in use by artists today. Private arts clubs dotted the city and provided lively exhibitions to accommodate the legions of artists in the area. The oldest of these, the Boston Art Club, existed from 1855 – 1950, but many clubs from the era survive today: The Copley Society (1879), the St. Botolph Club (1880) the Tavern Club (1884), and the Guild of Boston Artists (1914). The Guild was founded by the leading teachers of the Boston School and 37 other prominent artists, dedicating themselves to the tradition of painting that emphasizes thorough and comprehensive training. In a nod to the ascending recognition of women in the arts at the time, more than one third of the original Guild charter members were female. Artist Lilla Cabot Perry, a founder of the Guild, will be featured in this section, along with some of the Guild’s past presidents Aldro Hibbard, R.H. Ives Gammell and Robert Douglas Hunter.

The end of the Boston School’s heyday began in 1914 when the ground-breaking Armory Show debuted in Boston.This radical new approach to painting by such now famous modernists Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, and Henri Matisse shocked the public. Virtually none of the city’s art critics defended the new modernism, with one critic proclaiming, “From Munch to Matisse the art of European painting has degenerated to buffoonery.” The center of the art world gradually shifted to New York City which promoted modernism in all its forms and “isms.”

Despite this shift, the Boston School of artists continued to be admired for their pursuit of upholding their academically rendered work. With this exhibition we celebrate all of the Boston School's achievements, in particular the legacy they developed through close relationships with their fellow teachers, students, and studio mates.