FRENCH ACADEMIES Chronicles of information are available about the French Academies from 1850 to the early part of the next century. They provided us an array of notable painters and educators: Willian Macgregor Paxton, John Henry Vanderpoel, John Singer Sargent, Thomas Eakins, George Bridgman, Kenyon Cox, Frank Vincent Dumond, to name a few.

It is fair to say that the Munich Academy of the same era had an equally strong, if not stronger, impact on the culture of painting in this country.


The Munich School produced: American Painters, William Merritt Chase, Frank Duveneck, John Henry Twachtman, and Walter Shirlaw, amoung others. They also had a massive impact on the rest of Europe as well, most notably Greece where Prince Otto I was the first King of Greece from 1832 to 1862 t—many Greek artists were trained in Munich.
Hundreds of Polish, Hungarian and Swedish academic painters received their academic training in Bavaria.

The more painterly style the characteristic brushwork and the impressionist palette of the Munich School lineage, widely transplanted the smoother, more detailed French Academic manner. It would eventually eclipse the Hudson River School.

Many of the better students from both the Paris and Munich Academies would later become instructors at the fledgling Art Students League of New York which greeted them with open arms.

The influence of the impressionist worked its way into the Munich lineage through the Duveneck Boys and William Merritt Chase. A dramatic shift in the usage of color took place, transitioning from tonal to a colorful impressionist palette.

First and foremost was William Merritt Chase, a proponent of Impressionism. He brought this new European style of painting to America, disseminating its methods through his works and his teaching at ASLNY and The Chase School, which he founded in1896. The name would be changed two years later to The New York School of Art and eventually to Parsons School of Design.

Chase was firstly a representational painter but replaced many brown school colors on his palette with many new industrial age impressionist colors that were being produced by colourmen such as Sennelier. He worked mainly from life but frequently altered elements, especially color if the painting needed it.

He, along with James McNeill Whistler, painted the painting and just not the subject. Chase viewed what was before him as the starting point, not the destination. Chases’ evaluation led to a more free, more dramatic, and more individual expression of art than many of his contemporaries.


William Merritt Chase was the most influential teacher of American artists at the turn of the 20th century. In addition to his instruction of East Coast artists like George Bellows, Louise Upton Brumback, Kate Freeman Clark, Jay Hall Connaway, Mariette Leslie Cotton, Charles Demuth, Silas Dustin, Lydia Field Emmet, George Pearse Ennis, Marsden Hartley, Annie Traquair Lang, John Marin, M. Jean McLane, Frances Miller Mumaugh, Georgia O’Keeffe, Leopold Seyffert, Elizabeth Sparhawk-Jones, Joseph Stella and Edward Charles Volkert, he had an essential role in influencing California art at the turn of the century, especially in interactions with Arthur Frank Mathews, Xavier Martinez and Percy Gray.
It is critical to note the distinct stylistic differences of painters whos careers Chase helped form. (This is what one looks for in a great teacher.)


All of this brings us to Chase’s devoted pupil and studio assistant Chase passed on a Munich tradition of tone values and tonal painting while at the same time introducing a broader range of impressionist colors.
Hawthorne would greatly expand on his ‘color note’ or color as light vision, which would greatly influence the next several generations of painters

Hawthorne founded The Cape Cod School of Art in Provincetown, Massachusetts. The Cape Cod School of Art was the first outdoor summer school for figure painting and grew into one of the nation’s leading art schools.

Under thirty years of Hawthorne’s guidance, the school attracted some of the most talented art instructors and students in the country, including John Noble, Richard Miller, and Max Bohm.

At his school, Hawthorne gave weekly criticisms and informative talks, guiding his pupils and setting up ideals but never imposing his own technique or method. (Again the sign of a great teacher.) The book ‘Hawthorne on Painting‘ is a must-read and re-read for every aspiring painter.

After Hawthorne’s death in 1930 his protege, Henry Hensche carried on the Munich School lineage which passed from Chase to Hawthorne to him.


He didn’t teach in Hawthorne’s Barn and couldn’t afford to buy the name ‘Cape Cod School’ from Hawthorne’s widow.
Henry re-opened the Cape Cod School of Art in 1935 and continued to teach Hawthorne’s methods in Provincetown.

Henry would farther develop what has become known as the New England School of color which was passed on to many of today’s contemporary representational painters. Hensche added block studies… “light key, masses, and variations of masses are the essentials of all visual logic.”

Henry really has never received his due, and much of his color theory is open to interpretation. His book ‘The Art of Seeing and Painting’ and raises as many questions as they provide answers.
He was at odds with the emerging 20thc. Formalist movements which were receiving much of the attention of the art establishment.

The fact that Hans Hofmann opened his Provincetown summer school in 1935 (the same year Hensche opened his) plus Hofmann was teaching to a packed house in Hawthorne’s old Studio and he was living in Hawthorne’s old house. None of this sat well with Hensche. .

Hofmann had a Munich pedigree, and his color theories were inherited from Goethe and the Impressionists. In many ways, they paralleled those of Chase and Hawthorne. None of this tempered Hensche’s disdain for the prevail trend.


Another notable painter mentored by Hensche was Nelson Shanks who opened Studio Incamminatl is Philadelphia in 2002. Hawthorne and Hensche’s ‘New England School of Color’ forms the basis for how color theory is taught at the Studio.

This includes the concept of ‘color notes.‘ plus the greatly expanded palette of 30 p[us pigments, with the addition of Nelson’s dynamic style and innovations.


Studio Incamminati has a rigorous curriculum that fuses classical traditions of the Renaissance masters, and the luminous color of the Impressionists and the New England school. They have taken the best of the Munich School lineage and moved it forward into the 21st century.

Nelson was famous for his block-in demos which clearly illustrate Hensche’s and Hawthorne’s methods i.e. vigorous brushwork illuminating color and an over-all sensibility. “light key, masses, and variations of masses are the essentials of all visual logic.”

Nelson passed away in 2015 R.I.P. leaving behind a great legacy which includes Studio Incamminati.

Our friend Dan Thompson was recently named Dean of Faculty and Students at the school and has also taken over the duties of Artistic Director. They have an excellent staff of instructors including Kerry Dunn, Steven Early, JaFang Lu, Robin Frey, Natalie Italiano, Leona Shanks, Darren Kingsley, and Stephen Perkins all of whom disseminate the color theories passed down from Chase, Hawthorne, Hensche, and the school’s founder Nelson Shanks.

The Munich School stands up very well and in many ways surpasses the Academic lineage of the French Academies. The key differences are the application of paint, with the Munich School being far more painterly and expressive with its brush strokes and vibrato. And the German heritage of color theory, perhaps influenced by Goethe, takes on a roll of its own.

In summary, the Munich School painters and their influencers have had a significant impact and on how color has evolved and become integrated into the painting process. Color becomes more than a way to paint things that look like things, more than brown school ‘tonalism’. Color has become integral to the subject.
Duveneck, Chase, and Twachtman were at the forefront, Hawthorne, Hensche, and Shanks kept it contemporary and relevant.

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