Also signed and titled by artist on paper affixed to the stretcher
Oil on canvas
17½ x 21½ inches
Vose Galleries, Boston
Private collection, Dallas
Born into a wealthy Bostonian family, Lilla Cabot Perry’s aristocratic upbringing accustomed her to mingling with the cultural elite from a young age. Her brother-in-law was famed artist John La Farge, and in 1874 she married English literature professor Thomas Sergeant Perry, whose great uncle was Commodore Matthew Perry (who opened Japan to the world market in 1853). At nearly forty years of age and after having three children with her husband, Perry embarked upon her art studies under Robert Vonnoh and Dennis Bunker at the Cowles School in Boston. She later traveled to France for classes at the Julian and Colarossi Academies and private lessons with Alfred Stevens.
Given Perry’s privileged background and extroverted, generous nature, it seems fitting that she would have an integral role in bringing French Impressionism to the United States. The year 1889 was pivotal in her life; during the first of many visits to Giverny, France, Perry found her next-door neighbor to be the French master of Impressionism, Claude Monet. Highly intrigued by his original style, she was determined to learn all she could from the reclusive artist. A deep friendship developed between them and, on an artistic level, Dr. William Gerdts claimed that “of all the Americans living in Giverny in the late 1880s, she subscribed most completely to his aesthetic.”(1) She integrated elements of his style into her own (the bright palette and broken brushstrokes) and successfully urged her wealthy friends to buy his paintings. Perry’s own painting career flourished as did her friendship with Monet, as she and her husband summered in Giverny for the next ten years.
In 1898, Perry moved with her husband to live for three years in Japan, where he had accepted a college teaching position and she painted the Japanese landscape and people. While Perry was the artist who “introduced full Impressionism into Japan,” the delicate precision and asymmetrical compositions of traditional Japanese landscape painting informed her paintings as well.(2) Blending both schools of painting in Suruga Bay, Azaleas, Perry contrasts vibrant red blossoms against the soft, atmospheric skies and gentle waters along the Japanese shore.
1. American Impressionism (New York: Abbeville Press, 1984), p. 87.