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John Leslie Breck (1860-1899)

Breck essentially introduced the revolutionary new impressionist painting style to the city of Boston with his November 1890 solo exhibition at the St. Botolph Club. His modest personality and premature death have overshadowed his achievements until recently, but he was among the first group of Americans (along with Willard Metcalf and Theodore Robinson) to travel to Giverny in 1887, as well as one of the first Americans to paint in the impressionist style.

The son of a naval officer, Breck was born at sea (off the coast of Guam) and grew up in Massachusetts. He displayed early promise as an artist, and at the age of 18 left to study in Europe, first in Munich, and later in Paris, at the Académie Julian. His exposure to the light-filled landscape and brilliant skies of Giverny encouraged him to abandon the more somber mode of painting he developed in Munich, and to adopt an impressionistic approach. His pioneering vision, as demonstrated in his atmospheric and vibrantly colorful scenes of Giverny, Venice, and elsewhere, as well as his native Massachusetts, earned him the title "the father of American impressionism."