Americans in Giverny: Guy Rose and John Frost
By the turn of the 20th century, French Impressionism had already made its revolutionary impact on the Western art world, vigorously challenging the established academic style. Some American artists seeking to compete in the global art market ventured to Paris to further their training at institutions like Academie Julien and entered their work in the Paris salons. Enter Giverny: a quiet, bucolic village outside of Paris, where legendary Impressionist master Claude Monet lived and painted. It quickly became a destination for American expat artists dreaming of being tutored by the great Monet. Two such Americans who set up home and studio for a time in these gardens were Guy Rose (from 1904 to 1912) and John Frost (1907 -10). The Jonathan Art Foundation owns two paintings by these exceptional artists.
Monet and his fellow French Impressionists were famous for employing brushstrokes to indicate movement, texture, and to desolidify form. Our two Americans brought that philosophy and technique home to their California studios, and this approach continued to distinguish them from the majority of their contemporaries. Their fellow California Impressionists, whose signature styles hailed from a variety of influences from the East Coast to Europe, tended to favor capturing the hard, rigid surfaces of their subjects, which lent a small step in the direction of realism.
What we find instead with Rose and Frost are clusters of gestural lines and fat, juicy dots, which render their scenes soft and mutable. Rose’s tide pools in Laguna Rocks (c. 1916) are a mass of dancing and swirling reds, oranges, yellows and greens, alluding to the plants and animals living on them. Frost’s desert foliage in Tahquitz Canyon (1927) sprouts with joyful vitality by applying warm, friendly hues that banish any thought that the desert may be desolate or formidable. Far from a photorealistic color-matching of the scene before them, these two artists encouraged the viewer to have a sensation-based experience, to feel the heat of the sun in contrast against the chilly mountains and ocean.
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