Museum Minute: An Impressionist Depiction Of Yellowstone National Park

Sep 8, 2020

John Henry Twachtman (1853-1902). Waterfall in Yellowstone, ca. 1895. Oil on canvas, 25.375 x 16.5 in. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney. 22.69
Credit Whitney Western Art Museum

Not many American impressionists depicted the West. Most painted the East coast and Europe. But Karen McWhorter, the curator of the Whitney Western Art Museum, said one American impressionist, John Henry Twachtman, painted a series of Yellowstone National Park. 

“He ventured West only the one time, and this was relatively late in his life. He passed away in 1902, and he visited Yellowstone and created this scene in 1895,” said McWhorter. 

Twachtman painted an impressionistic view of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and its falls. The artist is known for his snow scenes. During his September visit, he was lucky it snowed.

“It reminds me of icing on a cake,” said McWhorter. “I love the palette ,and by palette, I mean the colors of paint that he used. They range from emerald green, greens to buttercream yellow, beautiful varied whites, shades of white, mint green. This is one of those paintings that you really want to touch.”

He was commissioned by William Wadsworth of Buffalo, NY, who asked him to paint a series from Yellowstone National Park. 

“This trip is like the outing of a city boy to the country for the first time,” Twachtman wrote after his trip to Yellowstone. “I've never felt so fine in my life.”