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Benjamin West, according to Bizardel, was the first American painter who felt it necessary to go to Europe for study. In 1760, when revolutionary rumblings could be heard everywhere, West went first to Rome, then to London by way of France. His stop in Paris was brief and unsatisfactory; his was not typical of the reaction of other American artists who over the years found their way to France for all manner of adventures. Bizardel appears to have sifted personal papers of several generations of traveling artists: he offers intimate biographical details in considerable profusion, and all the most famous are mentioned -- John Copley, who settled in London; Whistler and his terrible temper; John Singer Sargent; Winslow Homer, less Europe-influenced than any, and Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt (or Stevenson), who were the first women to exhibit at the Paris Salon, are all personalities who take shape here. Samuel F.B. Morse, who painted a full-length portrait of the Marquis de Lafayette, is contrasted with Robert Fulton, who also had some artistic aspirations at one time. This is not a contemporary book. It deals principally with American painters who worked and studied in France before the present century. The author does not make clear just why he stopped there, but the impression one gets is that few Americans of note have gone to the Continent in recent years. One would almost suspect, in fact, that Bizardel thinks there have been no important American painters of late. Whatever the case, this is a reasonably pleasant and informative salute to the men and women who were in the forefront of American painting tradition for several centuries, during the time when French training was the vogue.

Publisher: Macmillan