Arts and Entertainment

American Impressionist paintings on view at the Palmer Museum this summer

Alice Judson (American, 1869-1948), Summer Day, Gloucester Harbor, c. 1920s, oil on canvas, 20 x 24 inches. Collection of Thomas Clark Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – As the days grow longer and the weather warmer, the Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State is delighted to announce the opening of "Summer Light: American Impressionist Paintings from the Thomas Clark Collection." On view through Aug. 29, this special exhibition features paintings from the major forthcoming gift of collector Thomas Clark, whose private holdings contain some of the finest in the American impressionist genre.

“We are thrilled to present a selection of works from the expansive collection of Tom Clark to audiences this summer,” said Palmer Museum Director Erin M. Coe. “Impressionism is an enduring style that has spanned generations and geographic locales. It is a fitting tribute to our shared resilience as we emerge from the pandemic and bask in the light of these luminous landscape paintings after months of indoor isolation and limited travel. It is also a tribute to Tom, who has generously committed his collection to Penn State,” Coe added.

Impressionist painting, in its various forms, flourished in the United States well past its initial reception by American artists in the 1880s. The once-radical French movement, characterized in part by efforts to capture the changing conditions of natural light through loose brushwork, bright colors, and painting out of doors, gradually transitioned into a popular style on this side of the Atlantic. Featuring 24 works, "Summer Light" explores the durability and dissemination of Impressionism in America between about 1910 and 1940.

The summer season’s associations with vitality and leisure appealed to a broad range of artists who painted sun-streaked canvases in the open air. From Maine to Florida, from Texas to California, their bright palettes and broken brushwork rendered all facets of the American landscape and enjoyed popular acclaim. Whether depicting the bustle of harbors and beaches or the radiance of mountains and coastlines, American artists adapted French techniques to their own sensibilities and tastes. Many of the artists sustained vibrant careers and enjoyed praise in their lifetimes, though some are less widely known today. Significantly, 10 women artists are featured in the exhibition, among them Anna Althea Hills, Margaret Jordan Patterson, and Jane Peterson.

A number of summer schools and art colonies flourished and were important centers for the spread of American Impressionism. Cape Ann, Massachusetts, was home to the oldest art colony in the country and attracted several artists featured in the exhibition, including Louise Upton Brumback, Alice Judson, Hayley Lever, Carl Peters, and Frederick Carl Smith. Farther afield, artists in California, such as Maurice Braun, Franz Bischoff, Anna Althea Hills, and Selden Connor Gile, likewise focused on the warmth and freedom associated with the summer season.

“The works of the artists characterized as American Impressionists have been an act of both collecting and study for many years,” said Tom Clark. “The seemingly endless ability of these artists to capture ‘the moment’ and convey that ‘impression’ to the viewer is a source of continuing appreciation. This exhibition, as does the collection, highlights the significant contribution of women artists—whose path to recognition was definitely not an easy task during this period of American art.”

Organized by the Palmer Museum, this exhibition is the first presentation of works from Clark’s major forthcoming gift of some 170 paintings.

"This first, focused exhibition of paintings from Mr. Clark's vast collection offers a rare glimpse into the circulation of Impressionism throughout many regions of the United States in the first half of the twentieth century,” said Adam Thomas, curator of American art at the Palmer who organized the exhibition with museum director Erin Coe.

The exhibition will be on view at the Palmer Museum of Art May 22 through Aug. 29. Free timed tickets can be reserved through the website to visit 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, with the last timed ticket reservation at 4:30 p.m. for half an hour. The museum is closed Mondays, Tuesdays, and some holidays.

Related programming

Thursday, July 8, 4 p.m. Museum Conversation: "Summer Light"
Erin Coe, director, Palmer Museum of Art, and Adam Thomas, curator of American art
Join Palmer Museum of Art Director Erin Coe and Curator Adam Thomas for a lively online discussion about the artists and paintings featured in Summer Light: American Impressionist Paintings from the Thomas Clark Collection. Discover the enduring qualities of Impressionism that began as a once-radical French movement and transitioned into a popular style across the United States, especially focused on capturing the effects of natural light and atmospheric conditions on the American landscape. Learn more about the collector, Thomas Clark, and the impact of his promised gift to the Palmer's collection. Registration Link:

About the Palmer Museum of Art

The Palmer Museum of Art on the Penn State University Park campus is a free-admission arts resource for the University and surrounding communities in central Pennsylvania. With a collection of 10,260 objects representing a variety of cultures and spanning centuries of art, the Palmer is the largest art museum between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Areas of strength include the museum’s collection of American art from the late 18th century to the present, Old Master paintings, prints and photography, ceramics and studio glass, and a growing collection of modern and contemporary art. The museum presents nine exhibitions each year and, with 11 galleries, a print-study room, a 150-seat auditorium, and an outdoor sculpture garden, the Palmer Museum of Art is the leading cultural resource for the region.

The Palmer receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and from the Happy Valley Adventure Bureau.

For more information on the Palmer Museum of Art or for the calendar of upcoming events, visit

About the new University Art Museum at Penn State

Penn State and the Palmer Museum of Art are planning to construct a new art museum located in The Arboretum at Penn State. With nearly twice the exhibition space of the current Palmer, new classroom spaces and a teaching gallery, flexible event spaces, and on-site parking, this building will dramatically enhance the museum’s capacity to offer educational and enrichment opportunities for visitors of all ages. It will be integrated with the Arboretum, inspiring collaboration and creating a unique nexus of art, architecture and natural beauty. And like the Palmer Museum of Art before it, it will depend upon visionary philanthropy from the Penn State community. Learn more at

George Loftus Noyes (American, 1865-1954), <em>Sunlit Road</em>, c. 1910, oil on canvas, 27 x 22 inches. Collection of Thomas Clark Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Last Updated May 27, 2021