John-John Leslie Breck (1860-1899)

John Leslie Breck in his Oakland Avenue studio in Newton.

John Leslie Breck, recognized in his day as the first American impressionist, grew up in the Boston area. His early art studies were at the Munich Royal Academy.

In 1886, Breck enrolled at the Académie Julian in Paris and in the summer of 1887 painted at Giverny, where he became acquainted with the work of Monet. From then on, according to art historian Kathryn Corbin, the "dark and studied paintings influenced by his time in Munich were replaced by exuberant, light-filled landscapes . . . ." After he returned to Boston, he presented a one-man show at the St. Botolph Club in 1890 that introduced impressionism to the Boston art world. Subsequent exhibitions established Breck as the foremost American impressionist. In the 1890s, Breck had a house and studio on Oakland Avenue in Newton, which came to be called Studio Road. His work from these years was among his best, and brought him critical acclaim.

In Monet's garden in Giverny, about 1889: John Leslie Breck is seated in the foreground. Behind him is Alice Hoschede (later Monet's second wife) and her three daughters. To the right are the artist Claude Monet, his son Jean, and Henry Fitch Taylor, another American artist. (Photograph courtesy of Brown Corbin Fine Art.)

Daffodils, included in the exhibition, is painted in the Munich manner, one of a number of floral works from the early 1880s. A similar painting, Daffodils in a Stoneware Pitcher, was inscribed: "With an Easter Greeting to Nellie 1886." Nellie Plummer, his future fiancée, lived in Auburndale. Breck's painting The River Epte was owned by Auburndale businessman Fredrick Johnson. Johnson was a member of the Newton Club, where Breck exhibited in 1896. The Johnsons and the Plummers were related and most likely influenced Breck's move to Auburndale. Nellie Plummer and Breck never married.