Impressionist Masterworks

An impressive collection of art in Philadelphia

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Sunflowers by Vincent van Gogh

Sunflowers

Artwork, by Vincent van Gogh

On view at Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Postman by Vincent van Gogh at the Barnes Foundation

The Postman

Artwork, by Vincent van Gogh

On view at The Barnes Foundation

Models (Poseuses) by Georges Seurat at the Barnes Foundation.

Models (Poseuses)

Artwork, by Georges Seurat

On view at The Barnes Foundation

Girl with Pink Bow by Frank Benson

Girl With Pink Bow

Artwork, by Frank Weston Benson

On view at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

Description

If you’re a lover of Impressionism, you’ve come to the right city. Philadelphia is home to a significant number of works painted in this groundbreaking style that originated in France in the 1870s and was made popular by artists such as Monet, Renoir and Pissarro.  In this tour we highlight a few of the city’s many impressive Impressionist offerings.

The Impressionist and Post-impressionist collection at The Barnes Foundation’s Philadelphia Campus is widely recognized as one of the best in the world, and includes works by masters such as Cezanne, van Gogh, Picasso, Renoir and others.  Just up the street, the Philadelphia Museum of Art includes numerous Impressionist paintings from around the world including beloved works such Cezanne’s The Large Bathers and van Gogh’s Sunflowers. And just off the Parkway at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is a robust collection of American Impressionist paintings, many by artists who studied at the renowned art school.

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2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia, PA 19130

The Japanese Footbridge and the Water Lily Pool, Giverny

French landscapist Claude Monet was one of the first impressionists. This famous painting is one of a series Monet called his “water landscapes.” Monet spent much of the 1890s cultivating a garden, complete with a pond, water lilies and a Japanese footbridge, on his farmhouse property in Giverny just so he could paint beautiful motifs. Indeed, the garden and its water lilies were the primary focus of his work for the last 25 years of his life.

2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia, PA 19130

Sunflowers

This now iconic still life of sunflowers in a simple clay pot is one of four such paintings created by Vincent van Gogh in Arles, France during August and September of 1888. The sunflowers were in bloom and van Gogh painted them each day from morning on, attempting to catch them before they faded. He painted the series to decorate a bedroom for his friend, Paul Gauguin, who would visit him that October.
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2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia, PA 19130

The Large Bathers (Les Grandes baigneuses)

Large Bathers is one of three large canvases depicting lounging nudes in a landscape created by Cézanne near the end of his life. His final exploration into the nude, the works are thought to illustrate his desire to connect human oneness with nature. With the bather series critics say Cézanne created some of the most radical, moving works of the 20th-century. You’ll find another of the Large Bathers just down the street at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
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2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia, PA 19130

The Postman

Vincent van Gogh painted Joseph Roulin, a postal worker in Arles that he befriended and came to greatly admire, for the first time in the summer of 1888. He used bold, primary colors for the postal worker’s uniform and contrasting colors in the background to create a dramatic effect. Van Gogh developed a strong friendship with Roulin and his family and painted several portraits each of the postman, his wife and his children.

2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia, PA 19130

The Card Players

A prelude to Cezanne’s final years, this depiction of Provencal peasants deeply engaged in card playing and pipe smoking is one of a series of five such works. Painted between 1890 and 1892, this version is the first, largest and most complex, featuring four men and an observing child. The other, more condensed, versions feature just four or two figures. Cezanne likely drew inspiration for his peasant series after seeing a similar-themed work by La Nain brothers in the museum at Aix.

2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia, PA 19130

Models (Poseuses)

While the subject matter — nude models in a studio — is traditional, the pointillist technique Seurat developed to paint Models was, at the time, revolutionary. Seurat first used tiny dots of pure color to compose an image when he painted Sunday in the Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, which can be seen hanging on the wall in this painting-within-a-painting. Models is considered among the most influential works of modern painting.
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118-128 N. Broad Street
(Broad and Cherry Streets)
Philadelphia, PA 19102

Portrait of Mrs. C. (Lady with a White Shawl)

Like a modern day Miss America, William Merritt Chase intended this 1893 portrait of a lady in a white shawl to represent “the perfect type of American womanhood.” He kept her identity secret, though many speculate it was his wife, Mrs. William Chase, or perhaps wealthy art collector, Emily Jewel Clark. Chase’s choice to give the work with a generic title using only her last initial supports his intent to present an ideal, rather than a particular woman.

118-128 N. Broad Street
(Broad and Cherry Streets)
Philadelphia, PA 19102

Girl With Pink Bow

As if the pause button were pressed on life, Frank Benson’s Girl with Pink Bow captures a freeze-frame of his lively daughter Sylvia. Educated at the School of Fine Arts, Boston and then at the Académie Julian in Paris, Benson became a leading American Impressionist and was a member of Ten American Painters, a progressive group of Impressionists. His portraits of children and considered among his best works.