Lasting Impressions

MARGARIDA RAMALHO

AMERICAN BEAUTIES: John Singer Sargent's A Lady and a Child Asleep in a Punt Under a Willow

When Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro, Pierre Renoir and a handful of other artists — most of them French — began to abandon the formal rules that had dominated painting until the mid-19th century, they brought into the art world a new spontaneity, luminosity and richness. Their revolutionary way of looking at landscapes, gardens and scenes of leisure had particular resonance in a distant land that, a century earlier, embraced some revolutionary French ideas about politics. "I hated conventional art," said Mary Cassatt, a leading American artist of the 19th and 20th centuries. "When I joined the Impressionists, I began...

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