In his biography of his father, Ira Glackens described William Glackens's attraction to France: "Paris was always my father's favorite city, and France his spiritual home. Everything suited him there, the food, the wine, the people in the streets and public gardens, whom he loved to...
In his biography of his father, Ira Glackens described William Glackens's attraction to France: "Paris was always my father's favorite city, and France his spiritual home. Everything suited him there, the food, the wine, the people in the streets and public gardens, whom he loved to sketch; the look of restaurants, shops, and cafés; the color of the houses, the signs, the trees, the rivers, the fishermen, the villages, the flow of life. No other country seemed so to invite his pencil and his brush." (Ira Glackens, "William Glackens and the Ashcan Group," New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1957, p. 69). Glackens first traveled to France in 1895 with his friend Robert Henri, the leader of the Ashcan school, and remained there for fifteen months, based in Paris, with occasional trips to northern France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Thereafter, Glackens returned periodically to France, and from 1925 until 1932, he would spend part of every year there. Glackens's French experience influenced the subjects he chose to paint throughout his career. Like the French Impressionists, Glackens often painted Americans taking pleasure at the beach, the race track, the park, in theaters and restaurants. He showed them roller skating and playing baseball. Unlike many of the artists in the Henri group, Glackens did not paint the gritty side of New York life, although he did address those subjects in his illustrations for magazines. Glackens also emulated the styles of French painters especially Edouard Manet early in his career and later on, the Impressionist Auguste Renoir. Glackens painted "Flying Kites, Montmartre" during his second trip to France in 1906, a delayed honeymoon with Edith Dimock, whom he had married two years before. During the three weeks they spent in Paris he also painted three canvases showing Parisians enjoying themselves in the Luxembourg Gardens (which are indebted to Manet's "Music in the Tuileries," National Gallery, London), and one café scene, "Café de la Paix" (Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale). In its breezy atmosphere and pale blue colors, "Flying Kites, Montmartre" is a departure from Glackens's previous work, both in New York and in Europe, which was darker in color. Even the oil sketch, "Study for 'Flying Kites, Montmartre'" (Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale), which Glackens painted in preparation for the Museum's canvas, has a marked brown tonality. In contrast, "Flying Kites, Montmartre" is notable for its clear blue tones and light palette, perhaps inspired in turn by Manet's later, brighter work. Montmartre, located in the northern part of Paris in the 18th arrondissement, is the highest point in the city. Its most famous landmark is the white-domed Basilica of the Sacré Coeur that was built on its summit from 1876 to 1912. When Glackens visited Montmartre, it was a working-class neighborhood that had also long been a center of artistic and bohemian life in Paris, attractive to painters because of its cheap rents and the quality of its hilltop air and light. The area was breezy, as attested by the presence of windmills such as the famous Moulin de la Galette, and thus it made an ideal place for kite flying. Glackens's background as a much-admired illustrator is especially noticeable in the vivid action of the figures that inhabit "Flying Kites, Montmartre." The two figures chatting by the lamp post are skillfully posed, and the activity of the kite-flyers adds vigor to the scene. Characterizations such as these earned Glackens much praise from his contemporaries, and he was particularly admired for his crowd scenes and his facility with anatomy and gesture. "Flying Kites, Montmartre" was acquired shortly after it was painted by Mrs. Richard E. Dwight, the wife of a New York City lawyer who was a friend of Glackens's. The Museum bought the picture, the first oil painting by the artist to enter the collection, for $1,620 in 1938. Janet Comey
Lower left: W. Glackens
The artist; purchased from the artist by Mrs. Richard E. Dwight, New York, about 1907; with Kraushaar Galleries, New York, 1938; to MFA, 1938, purchased for $1,620.
The Hayden Collection—Charles Henry Hayden Fund
Reproduced with permission.