Edward Henry Potthast
Water Lilies, 1917
Oil on canvas
Signed and inscribed lower left
Potthast was one of the preeminent American Impressionist painters of the early 20thcentury and is known in particular for his portrayals of idyllic beach scenes. He studied in his hometown of Cincinnati, a thriving art center at the time, as well as in Europe. By 1889 he was working at Grèz, a village south of Fontainebleau in France where an international coterie of painters formed a colony focused on portraying the pristine landscape of the village. Potthast’s experience here led to his instant conversion to Impressionism. Around 1895 Potthast moved to New York City, and he remained there for most of the rest of his life, providing illustrations for publications like Scribner’s Century and Harper’s magazine while continuing to paint. During the summers Potthast would travel to the seaside art colonies in New England to paint.
Water Lilies is impressive not only for its scale, but also because of Potthast’s masterful rendering of light and the thick and emphatic brush strokes with which he applied the paint. The palette used to portray the dresses and over-sized bows of the girls playing in the water is joyful and enlightening. As indicated in the signature at the lower left, the painting was donated to the American Red Cross in 1917.