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Edward Henry Potthast – A Pioneer of American Impressionism Art

Edward Henry Potthast is considered to be one of the leaders of the 19th century American impressionism. Although he studied predominantly in America, Potthast fell under the spell of French Impressionists during his time spent in Paris.

When Potthast eventually returned to America, he continued to paint using the French impressionism style. Today Potthast is most famous for his impressionism paintings capturing the sparkling coasts and sunny beach scenes of America.

Potthast painting / American Impressionism Art - Summer day at the beach
Edward Henry Potthast Painting – Summer day, Brighton Beach

The French Impressionists Captivate Potthast Immediately

Potthast grew up in an artistic family in Cincinnati, Ohio, on June 10, 1857. Already at a young age his artistic talents were noticed by his art teachers at the McMicken School of Design.

At the age of 24 years, Edward Henry Potthast made his first trip to Europe to further his art studies. He first studied in Antwerp and then moved on to Munich. Potthast finished his European art tour with a visit to Paris. Here in the French capital he studied for a short period at the esteemed Academie Julian.

Spending Time in Barbizon was a Turning Point in Potthast’s Artistic Style

Potthast returned to to Cincinnati in 1885, continuing his art studies and working as a lithographer. In 1887, the artist returned to Europe. Initially he went to Munich but then moved to Paris before fatefully settling in Barbizon, a small town in the forest of Fontainebleau.

Here in the Barbizon, Potthast spent time experimenting with the techniques of plein-air painting and adopting the vibrant colors and loose brushstrokes of impressionists. Potthast fully embraced impressionism from this point on and throughout the rest of his art career!

Edward Henry Potthast Self Portrait
“The Artist” – Edward Henry Potthast Self Portrait

Potthast Brings his New Style Back Home, Pioneering the Movement of American Impressionism Art

When Potthast returns to America, he initially returns to his hometown, Cincinnati. However not long after, he decides to relocate to New York City. His impressionism paintings are getting exposure throughout America. He lands two major exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1896 and at the National Academy of Design from 1897.

Potthast and his Beautiful Seascapes & Beach Scenes

After moving to New York, Potthast spends his summer months in seaside towns painting beach scenes and seascapes .

It seems that Potthast loved the beach as he captured beach scenes over and over again. Some of them are of scenic & rugged seascapes, focusing on the ocean itself. Others are beautiful harbour scenes. But the majority of his paintings are of summer beach scenes. In these paintings, Potthast captures figures and in particular children, playing, wading, swimming and enjoying themselves.

Potthast’s beach scenes are full of bright eye-catching colors, evoking a feeling of cheerfulness. These paintings become Potthast’s signature-style that he is most remembered for.

Beach scene -   Edward Henry Potthast impressionism painting
Beach scene – Edward Henry Potthast painting

Where to View Potthast’s American Impressionism Paintings:

Below is a list of major art museums in America showcasing Edward Henry Potthast’s impressionism paintings:

Maine Coast - Edward Henry Potthast painting / American Impressionism Art
Maine Coast – Edward Henry Potthast painting
American Impressionism Art

For more articles about the American artists who came to France and fully embraced 19th century French impressionism, see below: