Art & Art History ETDs

Publication Date




In the study of past movements in American art, there has been a trend to discuss more what is distinctly American while not denying European influences. As with other movements, Impressionism in the United States has recently received considerable attention, not so much for its European origins as for its native qualities.

While the late American Impressionists such as Twachtman, Robinson, Weir and Prendergast followed more closely the scientific tenets of the French Impressionists, there were other American Impressjonists who incorporated only the color formulas and compositional formats of the Impressionists. Retaining the poetic mood and brush techniques of the Barbizon painters, they also followed certain stylistic preferences, especially in light and composition, of late Hudson River artists such as George Inness and Alexander Wyant. When applied to the American landscape, the combination of these sources produced stylistic results identifiable as uniquely American.

One such American Impressionist, who was influenced by the development of the landscape both in France and in the United States, is Charlotte Buell Coman (1833-1924). Widowed during the Civil War, she went to France circa 1871 where she studied painting; upon her return to her native New York, she devoted herself to depicting landscapes of the East Coast. Her best landscapes were done when she was over seventy, and they are easily identifiable by their atmospheric effects, soft blue and green palettes, and harmonious, idyllic moods.

This study of Mrs. Coman's life and work indicates the problem of defining a purely "American Impressionist" style, but does not deny its significance. While European influences certainly are not ignored, the specifically American qualities of Mrs. Coman's work are given special attention. These lie primarily in the semi-idyllic mood she instills in her paintings while using the color format and composition of the French Impressionists. In studying the career and work of Mrs. Coman, the native and personal aspects of her painting style assume special significance, both in understanding the artist and more generally in better understanding what is "American" in American Impressionism.



Document Type


Degree Name

Art History

Department Name

UNM Department of Art and Art History

First Committee Member (Chair)

Howard David Rodee

Second Committee Member

Bainbridge Bunting

Third Committee Member

Robert M. Ellis