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Americans in Paris, 1860–1900

October 24, 2006–January 28, 2007

At Home in Paris

American artists, who formed the largest contingent of foreign painters and sculptors in Paris, were only one segment of the capital's extensive American colony, which also included writers, businessmen, diplomats, and others in more-or-less permanent residence. Many American artists stayed together, and enclaves of them developed on the Left Bank, along the rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs and near the École des Beaux-Arts and the Académie Julian's headquarters.

Several American artists moved easily within French society. They were fluent in French and thus able to interact with their French colleagues, to keep up with current criticism and events, and to feel comfortable reading a novel, attending the theater, or participating in a social engagement. Although some lived in Paris for long periods—even the rest of their lives—most insisted on identifying themselves as American.

Life at home in Paris provided several painters with subjects for their brush. Julius LeBlanc Stewart achieved notice for a series of pictures of Parisian society, while Mary Fairchild recorded more modest images of everyday life. Mary Cassatt was completely at ease in Paris. French-speaking, independent, fiercely devoted to her work, and committed to making a living as an artist despite her wealth, she was the only American member of the French Impressionist group, showing with them four times between 1879 and 1886. She made the home her most frequent subject, applying her modern painting technique to traditional domestic themes.