Women in American Impressionism: Three Masterworks from the Smithsonian American Art Museum

November 9, 2019 - November 8, 2020

Boise Art Museum announces the presentation of three Impressionist masterworks from the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum: Mary Cassatt’s Spanish Dancer Wearing a Lace Mantilla, Frederick Carl Frieseke’s Nude Seated at Her Dressing Table, and Childe Hassam’s Tanagra (The Builders, New York). Each of these portraits provides a distinctive view of women at the turn of the twentieth century, filtered through the lens of the artist’s experience. Cassatt’s travels in Spain, Frieseke’s residence at the Giverny art colony, and Hassam’s urban lifestyle in New York City, are expressed through their individual choices of palette, pose, and setting. Opening alongside Impressionism in the Northwest, this exhibition provides an expanded view of the American Impressionist movement, and affords visitors the unique opportunity to experience artworks by three of the United States’ preeminent artists.

Organized by the Boise Art Museum

This is one in a series of American art exhibitions created through a multi-year, multi-institutional partnership formed by the Smithsonian American Art Museum as part of the Art Bridges + Terra Foundation Initiative.

Sponsored by Bev and George Harad

IMAGE (detail): Mary Cassatt, Spanish Dancer Wearing a Lace Mantilla, 1873,  oil on canvas, 25 5/8” x 19 3/4”, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Victoria Dreyfus, 1967.40
Improvements in art materials took place during this time as well. The portability of new painting equipment was just one of the many innovations that allowed artists to find inspiration in new settings outside the artist studio, such as in the countryside, the city, and people’s homes.

Paint Tubes
Painters once stored their pigments in cumbersome pig bladders or fragile glass vials.  Metal tubes, introduced in the mid-1800s, gave Impressionists flexibility, thanks to more portable and less messy containers.

Pig bladder filled with paint


The tin tube enabled painters to leave their studios.

Prior to the invention of the ferrule, the metal sleeve that clamps paintbrush bristles, brushes were hand-tied in a round bundle extending in one direction from the handle. The ferrule made it possible to fan and shape the bristles to create flat brushes, enabling Impressionists to suggest movement and create finely textured surfaces in a new way. The artists could also cover their canvases faster with these brushes, allowing them to capture scenes before they changed with the weather or time of day.

pre ferrule

Hand-tied brushes

Modern brush shapes formed with metal ferrules

Enjoy additional artworks by artist Childe Hassam in this video set to American composer George
Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue (1924)

The Case for Impressionism – PBS

Biography of Mary Cassatt – FreeSchool

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