French Landscape

William A. Harper

American, born Canada, 1873 - 1910

French Landscape, ca. 1905-9

  • Not On View

Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 11 1/8 × 13 5/8 in. (28.3 × 34.6 cm)

Gift of the Founders Society, 2000.65

French Landscape conveys the fleeting effects of light and shadow on landscape popular with Barbizon School painters who favored realism in art instead of idealized aesthetics. In 1903, William Harper traveled to France to study painting where he was influenced by the Barbizon school and the Impressionists. Both movements rejected the rigid artistic conventions of the time, favoring the natural effects of light and color as observed by painting outdoors. This landscape has carefully modulated colors and loose, undulating brushstrokes popular of the two groups of painters. William Harper is considered one of the most significant African American artists from the turn of the twentieth-century. Harper was born in Canada and then moved to Jacksonville, Illinois in 1891. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1895 to 1901. After graduating with honors, Harper taught drawing in the public schools of Houston, Texas. Between 1903 and 1905, Harper was in France painting the local scene, and then returned to France in 1907 where he formed a friendship with Henry Ossawa Tanner. Tragically, his career was cut short; while visiting Mexico in 1910, Harper died at the age of thirty-seven. That same year, the Art Institute of Chicago mounted a memorial exhibition of sixty of his works.

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