John Leslie Breck was an early exponent of the “new painting”, avant-garde style, of Impressionism. He is considered the American painter responsible for introducing impressionist painting to the United States in 1890. Born at sea on a clipper ship in the South Pacific, he had a father who was a captain in the U.S. Navy.
Breck grew up in the Boston and received his art training at the Munich Royal Academy, learning rapid brushstroke and dark Tonalism. In 1886, he studied at the Academie Julian in Paris, and was one of the important Impressionist artists at the art colony in Giverny, France. He was very close with Monet.
While in Giverny, John Leslie Breck liked to paint by moonlight. He used the moonlight theme to Venice as well. It was said at the time that his style marked the turning of a new chapter in painting. Breck’s achievements as an American artist constituted some of the earliest fully realized impressionistic paintings in this country. His works influenced the positive movement of Impressionism that occurred in the Boston area in the late 1880s and 1890s.
Breck’s close association with Monet can be seen in pictures he completed of Monet’s houseboat and garden, which were shown in Breck’s first one-man art show in Boston, in 1890, at the St. Botolph Club, the year of his return to America. From that time on, John Leslie Breck created some of his most memorable works, many of them focusing on sites along the Massachusetts coastline.
John Leslie Breck died in 1899 at the age of thirty-nine, but his death was rumored to have been a suicide. His tragic death occurred just as he was coming into his own as an artist, breaking free of the stylistic influences of both his academic training and Monet’s Impressionism.