The radical changes wrought by the rise of the salon system in nineteenth-century Europe provoked an interesting response from painters in the American South. Painterly trends emanating from Barbizon and Giverny introduced a visual vocabulary of style, color, and content that was soon successfully adopted by American artists. Many painters in the South took up the stylistics of Tonalism, Impressionism, and Naturalism to create equally picturesque works that celebrated the Southern scene as an exotic other, a locale offering refuge from an increasingly mechanized urban environment.
In its presentation of some forty paintings created between 1880 and 1940—including landscapes and genre scenes— Scenic Impressions: Southern Interpretations from The Johnson Collection (USC Press, 2015) traces an international aesthetic's journey to and germination in the American South. Martha Severens, co-author with Estill Curtis Pennington, talks with Walter Edgar about the art, its history, and The Johnson Collection.
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