Whistler to Cassatt: Audio Guides

Adult Audio Guide

100. Exhibition Introduction/Overview: Childe Hassam’s Grand Prix Day (Le Jour du Grand Prix)

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Christoph Heinrich: Hello, I’m Christoph Heinrich, the Frederick and Jan Mayer Director of the Denver Art Museum. I’m delighted to welcome you to the museum, and to our special exhibition Whistler to Cassatt: American Painters in France. We’re going to explore the story of American artists who traveled to Paris in the late nineteenth century in search of training and opportunities. We’ll learn about the new approaches and techniques these artists acquired there and how they used their experiences to build their careers – both in France and back in the United States.

Nearby, you’ll see a view of fashionable Parisians going to the horse races. It’s filled with a sense of light and color that American artist Childe Hassam absorbed during his French training. The painting was displayed at the celebrated Paris Salon in 1888.

And now, I’d like to introduce you to your main guide on this audio tour - exhibition curator Timothy Standring, Curator Emeritus of the Denver Art Museum.

Standring: And the great story here is that Americans mirrored the complexity of what was going on in France, which is a beautiful story for us to appreciate because it brings up the question not only what is American art but also it brings up the question of American singularity and American individualism.

101. Learning in the French Crucible: overview of art training in Paris with Jefferson David Chalfant’s Bouguereau’s Atelier at the Académie Julian, Paris

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Narrator: Daylight illuminates students focused intently on the life model, in the Académie Julian, a Paris atelier or studio. Many American artists studied here in the late nineteenth century, wanting a level of training and prestige they couldn’t find at home. Here’s Timothy Standring:

Standring: They went there to learn how to paint, so they would be recognized and they would then be able to garner clients to buy their paintings. You would first draw from plaster casts. You would then draw from the live model, then learn about color mixing and painting.

Narrator: Now move to look at artworks nearby while you listen to Colorado artist Ron Hicks discuss the value of studying the human figure:

Hicks: You are actually looking at a living and breathing thing and you're responding to that. I think it's vitally important. I think my experience when I first got into college closely resembled what you would see in some of the old ateliers. The very beginning was really plasters or simple shapes, understanding form, and in particular, the way light and shadow works, and then it progressed to color as we moved forward.

Narrator: Nineteenth century art students also worked in black and white, then color. They also learned about composition and perspective.

Standring: It was rigorous, it was exhausting. When the master teacher would walk around, you could hear a pin drop. And the master would come over your shoulder and say "bon" or "non" - it's good - or not. And if he didn't say anything, that meant that it wasn't very good at all!

102. Learning in the French Crucible: Cecilia Beaux’s Standing Male Figure and Alexander Harrison

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Narrator: Already an established artist in her native Philadelphia, Cecilia Beaux came to Paris in 1888 for further training – where she made this accomplished sketch a year later. Excluded from the French state-sponsored École des Beaux-Arts, women could enter private academies.

Burns: All art study was gender segregated in the ateliers like the Académie Julian, where she did study. Women artists have access to certain parts of academic training, but then other parts are off limits.

Narrator: That’s Emily Burns, Associate Professor of Art History at Auburn University. The Académie Julian’s female students drew from life models – but as you can see, they were shielded from total nudity!

The highest reaches of artistic achievement – paintings that told historical or religious stories – were thought to require considerable intellectual as well as technical ability. Such subjects were considered inappropriate for women artists, who often engaged in still life and portraiture - which Beaux became especially known for. To the right, you’ll see Beaux’s portrayal of her friend and mentor Alexander Harrison – another American artist living in France.

Burns: I love how she tilts up his palette to show us all the different colors, and there is a greater thickness of the paint surface on that part of the painting, as she's highlighting the kind of choices that artists are developing in their art study in Paris, between the glazed and built-up academic figures and the more vigorous brushstroke that we would associate with Impressionism. And so she places Harrison right in the middle of those two aesthetic practices.

103. The Salon: Overview

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Standring: To be accepted by the Paris Salon was equivalent to being accepted to go to the Olympics - I mean, this was world famous.

Narrator: This gallery evokes a late nineteenth century Paris Salon. A prestigious annual exhibition, it presented art selected by a jury whose taste tended to be academic and conservative. Selected artists hoped to attract critics’ approval – and patrons.

Standring: And they would announce names of American artists who were accepted in the Salon in the International Herald Tribune or the New York Post or the New York Times. And that's how American artists became famous.

Narrator: In such a densely-hung exhibit, size mattered! The large portrait of a bearded man with white frilled cuffs helped launch John Singer Sargent’s glittering career. It portrays Carolus-Duran, Sargent’s Paris instructor, from whom he’d learned this looser, excitingly modern way of painting. Nearby, you’ll see a more traditional, twilight seascape by Alexander Harrison with tightly-painted details.

Standring: Works were hung alphabetically. And so, you'd go through with your small livret, a little booklet, and it would identify all the paintings giving the names and possibly some commentary.

Narrator: - you have a similar livret that you can use to identify the artworks.

Burns: And I think looking at this wall, we can do a similar activity, just kind of stand back and see what your eye gravitates to, what stands out, in terms of color, in terms of light, in terms of subject matter.

104. The Salon: Mary Cassatt’s Mandolin Player and Susan on a Balcony Holding a Dog

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Narrator: This painting of a young mandolin player gives us an idea of the Salon jury’s taste: traditional subject matter and a smooth finish. It was American artist Mary Cassatt’s first work accepted at the Paris Salon.

Soon, Cassatt was working very differently. Find the woman in white with a dog, nearby. By the early 1880s, Cassatt had been exploring Impressionism for several years. In this revolutionary way of painting, artists captured the world around them with swift, dynamic, brushstrokes of thick paint, giving us the feeling we’re witnessing a fleeting moment in time. Here’s Timothy Standring:

Standring: If you look at the small rose hint on her bonnet, the way she's captured the illumination of the sunlight going through the transparency of the bonnet, look at the blue shadows caused by cobalt blue or ultramarine. She has not used any black in this - she's simply using chromatic means, colored means, to show the modeling of the figure, which is quite different from what she had done earlier. She's capturing light in this wonderful painting which is undoubtedly as brilliant as any other French Impressionist painter.

Narrator: Most conventional critics and collectors would have considered Cassatt’s visible brushstrokes and modern subject matter unfinished - and unacceptable. And indeed, Cassatt and the Impressionist circle were rejected from the Salon when painting in this way. Their radical approach attracted harsh criticism but also great acclaim by more forward-looking audiences.

105. The Salon: John Singer Sargent’s Portrait of Frances Sherborne Ridley Watts

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NARRATOR: John Singer Sargent made this vivid portrait of his childhood friend, Frances Watts, in 1877. It was his first painting exhibited at the Paris Salon – a great honor, especially since he was just 21 years old. Sargent has long been inspirational to artist Ron Hicks. Hicks loves Sargent’s incredible observation, and his power to convey feeling.

HICKS: John Singer Sargent had this ability to see tone, see shape, see relationships, take all that information in, and place it on the canvas with accuracy, and then he would do it in an emotional way. Her gesture, the way she's sitting in the chair, is awesome, and emotionally, it takes you into this place of, "Well, what is she thinking? What’s going on with this particular person?

When I started using models consistently, I was really like, "I have this idea. I'm going to put this model in this certain position”. But if it's just a replication of that person's physical features alone, and there's nothing else there, then you really have not made a portrait. Then I allow that person to become themselves, and then I absorb that energy.

And I think that's the joy of the dialogue that we as artists present. It opens up more questions than it answers, but I love that. And I think that's what Sargent does for me.

106. Private Collecting: Overview and John Henry Twatchman’s Springtime

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Narrator: Pale sunlight shines through morning mist in this scene by John Henry Twachtman. It’s built up with a narrow range of harmonizing colors that move between pale and dark tones. Tonalism, as this style was known, was explored by several American artists who passed through Paris in the 1880s. They were influenced by James McNeill Whistler, who’d arrived in Europe from the US thirty years earlier. Some of Whistler’s evocative landscapes hang nearby. Whistler’s paintings celebrated beauty and color for their own sake.

Standring: Whistler said, "If you don't care about your palette, you don't care about your painting."

Narrator: Echoes of Japanese art – then very fashionable in artistic circles in Paris and London – can be seen in Whistler’s simple, flattened compositions. Moreover, he often gave his paintings musical titles, calling them nocturnes, or symphonies to emphasize their lyrical, romantic nature.

This gallery evokes a private collector’s assembly of paintings. These smaller works, with their poetic imagery appealing to imagination and memory, were extremely popular with collectors on both sides of the Atlantic.

Standring: Imagine putting a painting like that in your living room, and you thought, "Oh, it was really great when we were in Normandy last summer," and you've got a record of that right in your living room. That's what was going on, that's why they collected.

107. Countryside Excursions: Overview and Theodore Robinson’s The Wedding March

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Narrator: A wedding procession meanders through the Normandy village of Giverny in this painting by Theodore Robinson. The groom is Robinson’s friend and fellow American artist Theodore Earl Butler, and his bride is Suzanne Hoschedé-Monet – Claude Monet’s stepdaughter.

Monet lived in Giverny. And American painters also gathered there.

Burns: Artists saw going out into the countryside as the place to play outside of academic conventions. It was pretty common for US artists to be in Paris for what today we think of as the academic year, and often artists would then in the summers go out to artists’ colonies, mostly in Normandy and Brittany to the west of Paris.

Narrator: There, they’d study the changing effects of light and weather on the landscape. They’d work “en plein air”, or outside in the fresh air – giving their work a sense of immediacy. In the past, outdoor sketches were often made as preparation for studio paintings, with smooth, carefully finished surfaces. But the Impressionists’ “sketches” were now exhibited as paintings in their own right.

Burns: If you look at the paintings in the gallery, you can see that none of the artists have exactly the same brush strokes. And so it becomes a formula that actually signifies the artistic individuality.

108. Countryside Excursions: Theodore Robinson’s A Hillside, Giverny, and Guy Rose’s Late Afternoon, Giverny

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Narrator: This remarkable hillside, with its narrow fields, sweeps up toward a horizon so high, it reduces the sky to a sliver of blue. And the foreground is simply a broad expanse of green, with only a tiny white figure to give a sense of scale. It’s an extraordinarily modern image – more about pattern and color than about recording the landscape’s exact appearance.

The painting was made by Theodore Robinson, who lived between the US and France for much of his career. He often worked alongside Claude Monet in Giverny. He also helped establish an American artists’ summer colony in the village, which became perhaps the most famous summer outpost for American painters in France.

Influenced by Monet and the other Impressionists, many American artists moved away from the darker tones and narrative subject matter of academic painting. They turned to a lighter, brighter approach, painting outdoors, and working directly in front of their subject, using swift, unblended brushstrokes. The increasing availability of mass-produced portable easels and paints in metal tubes - like we have today - made working outside much easier!

Nearby, you’ll find a view of trees and cottages bathed in the pink-violet light of late afternoon. It’s by California artist Guy Rose, who settled in Giverny for some years just after the turn of the twentieth century, having trained at the Académie Julian earlier. Rose also came to know Monet well and counted him as a friend and mentor.

109. Countryside Excursions: John Singer Sargent’s Fishing for Oysters at Cancale with four studies

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Narrator: When this painting was first exhibited in New York City, viewers marveled at its silvery evocation of cool, northern light – and at the prodigious skill of the twenty-one-year-old artist. John Singer Sargent had arrived in Paris for training a few years earlier, astonishing everyone at the teaching studio.

Standring: He unrolled a whole series of drawings and everybody was aghast. It was shock and awe in Carolus-Duran's studio. And they said- this 18 year-old could produce work like this? - it's incredible.

Narrator: Sargent painted this picture on the Normandy coast – but it’s not easy to deal with a large canvas, paints and brushes, outdoors.

Standring: The wind might be blowing, there's a lot of rain in Normandy, it's not very warm all the time either.

Narrator: So he probably made the smaller figure studies that you see nearby outside. Then he used them to produce the larger painting back in his studio – a common practice. A larger version won Honorable Mention at the Paris Salon.

Standring: I think what's amazing about Sargent is that he's hard to pin down. He's not an academic painter, he's not a naturalist, he's not an impressionist. He's a little bit of everything. He was so fluid and versatile with his painting. And, boy, it's so difficult to imitate Sargent. He knows how much paint to put down and when to take his brush as he's painting it and twisting it and then leaving those wonderful dabs of color across the surface. And that's what makes his paintings so marvelous.

110. Countryside Excursions: Henry Ossawa Tanner’s The Young Sabot Maker

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Narrator: In this painting dating from 1895, a young boy works on carving sabots, or wooden shoes. It was one of the first of many paintings by Henry Ossawa Tanner to be accepted at the Paris Salon. He won a medal at the 1897 Salon – a rare honor for an American.

As a Black artist, Tanner had faced debilitating racism in the US, and in 1891, he moved to Paris, seeking new opportunities. Artist Ron Hicks:

Hicks: I think we as artists, we just want to be artists and we want to create, and there's all of this noise that can sometimes interfere with that dynamic. So, I imagine he just wanted to just paint.

Narrator: After studying at the Académie Julian, Tanner specialized in religious scenes blending rigorous academic preparation with a spiritual sense of narrative. He achieved great success.

Burns: While US critics paid a lot of attention to him as a Black artist working abroad, in the French criticism it's very rarely, if ever, mentioned that he is a Black artist.

Narrator: Tanner spent the rest of his life in France and often exhibited at the Salon. He was eventually awarded the highest French accolade – the Legion of Honor.

Hicks: That is an amazing feat in and of itself. So I just think it inspired a lot of people to say, "If he can do this, then I'm sure we can do it, or I can do it, or there is hope," and in particular for people of color. You know, as time has progressed, you see more of a diversity of people taking the art to different levels.

111. Exposition Mary Cassatt: Overview and Mary Cassatt pair of pastels

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Burns: These are pastels out of the hundreds of representations of mother and child scenes that Mary Cassatt made throughout her long career in France. And in part, there are ways in which the domestic space was seen as the appropriate subject matter for women artists to engage. But I think that if we look closely at Cassatt's renderings, we can see the ways in which the domestic space is sometimes dynamic or disruptive.

Narrator: Cassatt, like her friend Edgar Degas, was influenced by the flattened perspective of Japanese prints, and the way photography often cropped objects at the edges. Cassatt pushes the boundaries of conventional portraiture elsewhere, too. European and American collectors bought works like these from the new private art galleries that sprang up in late nineteenth century Paris. Such galleries often presented single-artist shows. This space, featuring only Cassatt’s work, is arranged to give the feel of just such a gallery.

112. Exposition Mary Cassatt: 3 pastels: Bust of Ellen with Bows in Her Hair, Patty-cake, and Clarissa, Turned Right, with Her Hand to Her Ear

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Narrator: Dashes of pure color, some incredibly fine, others broad and almost abstract, combine to build up this enchanting pastel portrait by Mary Cassatt. Pastels were popular with collectors.

Standring: It was something between painting and drawing. It had a vibrancy that was unparalleled either by oils or by watercolors. And it had a vigorous, visceral kind of touch that you show the process of the artist unfolding before your eyes, which brings us closer to that act of creation. And I think that's what clients recognized and appreciated in artists such as Cassatt.

Narrator: The Parisian art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel nurtured many of the Impressionists’ careers. He held Cassatt’s first solo exhibition and helped her find a market both with French and American collectors. Private galleries offered an exciting new way for critics and collectors to experience an artist’s work in depth.

Burns: If you think back to that Salon hang where the paintings are quite tight in the space, this is operating very differently. Artists and dealers are encouraging patrons to look at each work individually. The scale of the pictures starts to get increasingly smaller to encourage that kind of intimate and careful looking. And in some ways we can see the decline of the Salon as the arbiter, as these other spaces where Cassatt is exhibiting for instance, start to emerge.

Narrator: Durand-Ruel expanded his operation to open a gallery in New York, capitalizing on the American audience that he’d carefully fostered in Paris.

113. The Ten: Overview of The Ten with Frank Benson’s Sunlight

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Narrator: On seeing this dazzling painting, one critic declared the artist must have had a bottle of sunshine to dip his brush into! Posed against the sky, with the world at her feet, this elegant young woman is artist Frank Weston Benson’s daughter, seen at their summer home in Maine. The picture is filled with the bright, Impressionist brushstrokes Benson had learned in France.

But not everyone was delighted with this new, foreign way of painting.

Standring: A number of artists came back to America from their stay in France, and they discovered that their newly acquired skills were considered by critics as lacking in Americanness.

Burns: People started to get really anxious that American painting had no distinct qualities that were not tied to French artmaking, and a few more conservative critics complained about American artists who, and I'm quoting from one, tried to “paint America through French spectacles”.

Narrator: Benson and nine others in this position, excluded from the National Academy of Design exhibitions in New York, formed a group that became known as “The Ten”. They intended to forge their own path and organize their own independent shows – much as the French Impressionists had done earlier.

114. The Ten and the American Salon: Overview of the American salon experience with Edmund Tarbell’s Three Sisters

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Narrator: This area recreates the feel of an exhibition in New York, Boston or Philadelphia, by the American artists’ group known as The Ten. The paintings are arranged in a rather dense, Salon style, highlighting their diverse approaches.

Standring: These are absolutely stunning paintings - a little bit of naturalism, little bit of academic painting, little bit of Impressionism, bright palettes, large canvasses - it's a rich American experience.

Narrator: The subjects range from dramatic sea cliffs and lush landscapes to quiet domestic scenes. Edmund Tarbell portrays his wife and her sisters in a delightful array of red, white and blue summer outfits. Nearby is Childe Hassam’s intensely colorful view of a woman with a bowl of goldfish. These paintings have echoes of the French Impressionism in which Tarbell, Hassam and others were immersed during their student days in Paris.

But the criticism of their work as “too French” was beginning to quiet down. The key might be found in their subject matter. The French Impressionists had depicted urban as well as rural scenes, and people of all classes – including the poor. But The Ten focused on well-to-do families at leisure, and the beautiful American countryside.

Burns: I think there was a sense that these pictures had made Impressionism something different and more palatable. And these artists do start to find American patrons who are supporting their work as well.

115. Overture to Modernism: Timeline—United States of America, 1855–1913

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Narrator: Around the turn of the 20th century, disapproval of American artists steeped in French training, emerged. There was a feeling that American art should speak to American themes and individuality. It should look American. This timeline includes some of the historical events shaping the US during this time.

We’ve seen how these artists, adapting to audiences attuned to a more nationalist sensibility – painted views of glorious American landscapes and well-heeled families in sun-dappled gardens and seafront estates. And yet, they didn’t turn their backs on the experiences that had shaped them.

The process of encountering, absorbing, interrogating and adapting one’s influences is still very much on artists’ minds today. As is the question of how you’re understood as an artist – just as it was for The Ten. Here’s Ron Hicks:

Hicks: The artistic path is full of discoveries. Sometimes there are artists that can go through their entire career and do one thing. But then you have other artists where their purpose is to absorb information and take things in and spit it out, ask questions about it. I may be in a different position six months or a year from now, and I welcome that.

Of course there are some communities that may be somewhat marginalized, but I'm glad to see a lot of the museums and some of the galleries, moving towards including a diverse group of people into the limelight, which I think is long overdue.

116. Overture to Modernism: Edward Hopper’s Le Pont des Arts

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Narrator: We’re back in Paris here – but it’s a rather unconventional view of the city. Instead of depicting a sweeping boulevard or fashionable park, this painting by Edward Hopper shows us windswept figures crossing the river Seine – from beneath a bridge.

Standring: It is true that Hopper simply wanted to show the underside of the beautiful carapace of Paris. He didn't want to associate with any group. He wanted to be an individual. And what a great coda to this exhibition to exemplify American singularity and individualism, but with this wonderful work by Hopper.

Narrator: Around the time Hopper made this painting in 1907, American artists were working in very diverse ways – as you can see by looking at the other paintings along this wall.

And six years later, the New York Armory Show of 1913 would thrill and shock American viewers with art by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Marcel Duchamp, among many others. It marked a monumental shift toward modernism in American art – a move that had some of its roots in the outward- looking, experimental approaches of the artists we’ve explored today.

We very much hope you’ve enjoyed the exhibition. Please leave your audio device at the kiosk as you leave.

Youth Audio Guide

200. Childe Hassam Grand Prix Day (Le Jour du Grand Prix), 1887

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Adele Tanner: Greetings, dear friends. (beat) I mean..., what's up? Please forgive me. I've just arrived here from the past, so I may not know your lingo too well...yep you heard me, the past! I time traveled here all the way from the year 1913. And I have the magic to become any age I want! Pretty awesome, right? You see, I'm an aspiring arts and cultural journalist. I’m here to report on my incredible Grandfather who is a most stupendous...I mean legit artist. His name is Henry Ossawa Tanner. I traveled to this exact place and time in Denver, Colorado because I heard he was in this exhibition and I need to make sure everyone knows all about his art. Time traveling to a future exhibition that my grandfather is featured in, will make quite a story back home in my time, don't you think? (beat) I’m hoping as we journey on through this exhibition, we can meet many artists who, like my Grandfather, Henry, were born in America and traveled to study and make art in France. Let’s begin by looking at this painting called Grand Prix Day by Childe Hassam. What do you notice in this painting? (beat) I can tell you that a very fancy parade is happening. Can you guess where the parade is heading? They are all going to watch a horse race. Do you all do that in your time? I’ve never been, but I do hope to write a story on the races someday. I can also report that Childe Hassam just won a gold medal for this painting at the most famous exhibition in the world, The Grand Salon in Paris! I cannot wait to see what other artists are here. Let us meet at the next stop inside!

201. Thomas Hovenden Self-Portrait of the Artist in His Studio, 1875

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Adele Tanner (AT): Oh how wonderful, an art studio! My Grandfather Henry spent lots of time in a studio such as this. And oh my goodness, here is a self-portrait of his good friend and teacher, Thomas Hovenden. Since I time traveled, I can talk to the artists or people in the artwork. Oh Thomas, are you there? It is I, Adele Tanner, Henry’s granddaughter.

Thomas Hovenden (TH): (Irish accent) Young Adele, is that really you? You made it to the future?

AT: Yes Thomas, I did! I already made some new friends who are here with me right now listening. Thomas, you are in a very relaxed position in this artwork, why is that?

TH: Haha! Well, to be honest, the painting master I study with often paints figures in these very relaxed poses. So I thought I’d paint myself in this pose! I’m celebrating literature, music and painting in this artwork. Can you find all three?

AT: Hmmmm. Well, painting seems obvious with the giant canvas and paint palette in the background. Friends, can you find literature or music? Oh, wait...in his hands? Why...It's a violin! Oh and look, books in the background. We did it friends!

TH: Aye. Very good!

AT: What a delight to see you, Thomas I am quite excited to find my Grandfather Henry. Have you seen him?

TH: Well, I was just painting outside with him this very morn! I believe he is right in the next room.

AT: Wonderful! Friends, let’s meet at my Grandfather Henry Tanner’s painting in the next room! Goodbye Thomas and thank you!

TH: Farewell young Adele and Friends!

202. Henry Tanner Cameo

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Adele Tanner (AT): Grandfather? Grandfather Henry?

Henry Tanner (HT): Well I’ll be. Is that my Granddaughter Adele? Oh darling, the future looks mighty fine on you! (Beat) Welcome to this room that is set up like the grand French Salon, the most important exhibition of art each year in Paris. Here, you would see thousands of artworks, paintings, and sculptures! I was included in the Paris Salon with this painting. If you look in the livret or little brochure you received, you will find the names of the artists and paintings in this Salon room. Look for mine: Henry Ossawa Tanner.

AT: Wow, grandfather. I've never seen this one before.

HT: Oh yes! I painted this when I became most confident as an artist and began selling my paintings back in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, I faced a lot of racism there. As an African American artist, I was extremely timid made to feel that I was not wanted in a place where I had every right to be. My heart sank and it caused me so much pain. I decided to move to France where my paintings would be accepted.

AT: I'm sorry that happened. I have to put this in my article! I love that you paint African Americans like us, but don't like the fact you had to deal with horrible racism.

HT: It made me stronger and molded me to be the artist I am today. Yes, add that to your article Granddaughter.

AT: Of course! Grandfather, as you know my time is so short here and we have so much more to see so I can report back for my article. Shall we meet back up in a bit?

HT: Ah, yes. I do think you may just see me pop up down the road.

AT: Wonderful! See you soon! Friends, meet me next at a painting called Green and Violet: The Evening Walk.

203. James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Green and Violet: The Evening Walk, 1896

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Adele Tanner: Since this exhibition is called Whistler to Cassatt, we must of course view a painting by James McNeill Whistler! I’ll tell you another fun little secret about Whistler. He signs his paintings in the shape of a butterfly with a long stinger for a tail. Look closely, you'll see it! Apparently, it represents his subtle or delicate way of painting and his at times combative or angry personality. What do you notice about this painting? I heard he only used three colors in this artwork. Green and violet are obviously in the title. What is the other main color you notice? (beat) I think the blue of the water really stands out He seems fascinating – perhaps I will meet and interview him someday! In the meantime, let us search for some splendid color. Meet me at the colorful painting called Poppies!

204. Robert Vonnoh, Poppies, 1888

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Adele Tanner (AT): Have you ever run through a patch of poppies before? Well, if you haven't, I bet getting lost in this colorful painting will be all you'll need to imagine it! Robert Vonnoh was an American Impressionist who made this painting in France and people thought it was almost TOO modern. Why, you ask?

Poppy (P): (Interrupting. Royal accent) Because of the way it’s painted. The artist didn’t even bother to smooth out the brushstrokes! And he used such bright colors as he was capturing the impressions of light on natural objects. That seemed very shocking to viewers when they saw it for the first time.

AT: What...who said that?

P: (Scuffs) Ugh...down here! The prettiest poppy of the bunch!

AT: A...a talking poppy? I guess I can talk to flowers too! Hi I'm Adele Tanner and these are my friends!

P: Delightful. Nice to meet you Adele and Friends. Robert Vonnoh was inspired by our beautifully intense colors, something that was also popular with French Impressionists. He painted this as if we are smack dab in the middle of a whole garden of poppies. At a distance, we are a beautiful picture. Up close, there are quick blobs and dabs of unmixed colors that Impressionists made famous. Just look how he vigorously painted my red and gold blossoms floating over my green stems.

AT: That's exquisite! I mean...that's cool! Vonnoh and my Grandfather both studied art in France! Wow!

P: What a minute...did you say your last name was Tanner? Henry Tanner was your Grandfather?

AT: Yes!

P: Vonnoh and your Grandfather crossed paths briefly in France. He too, is an amazing artist who breathes life into his art!

AT: Thanks Poppy! See you later! We must find my grandfather again and tell him who we’ve met so far. Everyone, let’s meet at the next artwork we see by Henry Tanner!

205. Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Young Sabot Maker, 1895

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Henry Tanner (HT): Boo!

Adele Tanner (AT): Grandfather, you scared me!

HT: (Laughing) Oh my apologies! I just wanted to pop back in on you and your friends! How's the tour going?

AT: It has been wonderful Grandfather! We've gotten the chance to talk to Thomas Hovenden and speak with a beautiful talking poppy!

HT: Well good for you!

AT: Wow, this is so exciting! Can you tell us more about your painting, Grandfather?

HT: I can tell you that the man looking proudly at his student as he carves a sabot is how I feel about you and your pursuit of becoming a journalist, Granddaughter.

AT: Oh, stop! Now you’re embarrassing me. (laughs) Also, I don't think our friends here in the future know what a sabot is.

HT: Fiddlesticks! Who doesn’t know what a sabot is? Just look at what the boy is making on the sawhorse out of wood. What does it look like?

AT: Well, a shoe of course, but the shoes of the future look very different from the shoes of our time. You would be astounded.

HT: I see. Still, it’s very dignified to put in the work to make the things you need and this painting is a tribute to that.

AT: Yes! Thanks Grandfather! It was so good to have you pop in on us again! This exhibition is wonderful so far!

HT: So glad you all are enjoying it! Well have fun and you be safe in your time travel back home, young lady!

AT: I will! Love you, Grandfather! Before I go back, we must find Mary Cassatt. Meet me in the next gallery!

206. Mary Cassatt, Baby in Dark Blue Suit, Looking over His Mother’s Shoulder, 1893-85

0:00 0:00

(SFX: Baby crying in the background)

Mary Cassatt (MC): Shhh...There, there dear child...there, there. We'll be done soon and you can sleep soundly in your mother’s arms.

Adele Tanner (AT): I can't believe it! It's Mary Cassatt! The Artist Mary Cassatt is here!

MC: Shhh!! You’ll wake the baby again.

AT: Ms. Mary Cassatt! Hi it is I...Adele Tanner...

MC: Adele Tanner! I heard you were writing a story about us and this exhibition! Wonderful!

AT: I heard a baby crying? Did that come from the painting?

MC: Oh yes, excuse me. He gets cranky if he hasn't had a nap.

AT: Hey Friends! What do you notice when you look at this painting? How does it make you feel? What colors really stand out to you?

MC: When I painted this portrait, I wanted to create a soothing calm image of a mother and child.

AT: I can feel the love and warmth of this painting. Look how relaxed the baby is, he looks safe with her. The mother holds him lovingly. They both look happy!

MC: Great observations Adele! You're sounding like a true artist lover!

AT: Oh, I am an avid art lover...I-I mean, art is lit- (Baby crying)

MC: Oh well, it looks like someone is cranky again. I do want to say how brave it is for you to be pursuing your dream of being a journalist. That can’t be easy for a woman with most journalists of our day being men.

AT: Oh goodness, what a compliment! I am inspired by you! Look at you daring to be an artist surrounded by mostly men. How brave you are.

MC: Well here’s to both of us for being brave! Enjoy the exhibition and thank you for stopping by and allowing me share this mother and child painting

AT: Thanks Ms. Cassatt! Friends, this place just keeps getting better and better! I'm going to have an amazing story for my article once we're done. But it's not over yet, let's head over to our next magical adventure called The Sisters!

207. Frank Benson, The Sisters, 1899

0:00 0:00

(SFX: Two young girls fighting over a handkerchief)

Adele Tanner (AT): Whoa, whoa. hey! What is the problem?

Elizabeth Benson (EB): She’s about to steal my hat and it’s mine!

Sylvia Benson (SB): Finders keepers! You dropped it and I saw it first!

EB: Did not!

SB: Did too!

AT: Girls! Girls! My goodness, you are certainly not living up to the painting your father was trying to create.

EB: Whatever do you mean?

AT: Well, I heard that your father Frank Benson lovingly portrays his daughters as angelic perfect visions of youth. I’d say you’re not being angels right now.

EB: Well, I don’t want to be an angel and besides, why do you care? Who are you anyway?

AT: My name is Adele and I happen to be the granddaughter of a famous artist too, named Henry Tanner. Only I don’t fight with my sister over silly hats!

EB: So you’re saying you never fight with your sister ever and you’re just perfectly behaved all the time?

AT: Ha! You’re right, I’m not! But I’ll tell you a secret – your father will often paint beautiful pictures of you and your sisters as you get older. He obviously really loves you… but maybe he also feels a little sad you’re growing up so quickly.

EB: He paints us when we are older? What do we look like? What are we doing?

AT: You are all beautiful and your father has a talent for capturing your different personalities and interactions with the world around you.

EB: Wow. Well, right now I’m interacting with my sister to take back my hat. See you later Adele!

AT: Goodness. I guess it’s just sisters being sisters. Let’s all go to the beach! How does that sound? Meet me at two beach scenes by Robert Henri!

208. Robert Henri, Robert Henri, A Concarneau Beach (Coast Scene), 1899, and Concarneau Beach, 1899

0:00 0:00

(SXF: Beach Sounds and bird sounds)

Adele Tanner (AT): Imagine yourself standing on this beach. You can almost feel the wind on your face and hear the crash of the waves! Ahhh and these two paintings are where I'd love to travel to next! The beach! What do you notice in these paintings? Can you imagine yourself standing in the center of this painting? I love how this painting catches nature in its true form! Robert Henri was well known for his lively brushstrokes, and he was another American Artist who moved to France! The inspiration for this painting came when he visited The Concarneau Beach.

(SXF: Beach Sounds and bird sounds)

He said:

Voice Over Of Robert Henri: "Art is the giving by each man of his evidence to the world. Those who wish to give, love to give, discover the pleasure of giving."

AT: What a powerful quote from Robert Henri! It is indeed a pleasure to be able to give! Especially when you're giving art! What do you think about art as a gift?

(SFX Alarm clock ringing)

AT: Oh no friends, it looks like my time travel clock is telling me it's time to go back to 1913. I'm sad I have to go, but I'm so happy I was able to time travel to the future and make wonderful friends like you! The Whistler To Cassatt exhibition featuring all of the artists we've met, including my Grandfather Henry Tanner, is going to be so fun to report back on! I have everything I need for my article, thanks to you and all our new artist friends! Well, gotta go! 1913 here I come! Goodbye friends!

(SFX Sounds of time machine blasting off)

Adult Audio Guide Credits

Writer/Producer: Frances Homan Jue

Sound Design: Postmodern


  • Emily Burns: Associate Professor of Art History, Auburn University
  • Ron Hicks: Artist, Denver, Colorado
  • Timothy Standring: Curator Emeritus, Denver Art Museum
  • Narrator: Kendra Hoffman

Youth Audio Guide Credits

Writers: Lindsay Genshaft and Kenya Fashaw

Sound Design: Postmodern


  • Adele Tanner: Kenya Fashaw
  • Thomas Hovenden and Robert Henri: Brian Cummings
  • Henry Ossawa Tanner: Michael Peters
  • Poppy Flower and Mary Cassatt: Annie Kovich
  • Elizabeth Benson/Sylvia Benson: Kylia Fashaw

Whistler to Cassatt: American Painters in France is organized by the Denver Art Museum. The exhibition is supported by the Tom Taplin Jr. and Ted Taplin Endowment, the Kristin and Charles Lohmiller Exhibitions Fund, the Wyeth Foundation for American Art, Kathie and Keith Finger, Lisë Gander and Andy Main, Lauren and Geoff Smart, Christie’s, the French American Museum Exchange (FRAME), the generous donors to the Annual Fund Leadership Campaign, and the residents who support the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD). This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. Promotional support is provided by 5280 Magazine and CBS4.