Francis Brooks Chadwick

(1850-1942)

The landscape and portrait painter Francis Chadwick was born in Boston and studied at Harvard University. During the period 1870-1881, he attended the Académie Julian in Paris where his teachers were Gustave Boulanger and Jules Joseph Lefebvre. In Paris he became friends with John Singer Sargent, and in the summer of 1880 they traveled together to Haarlem, Holland to study the work of Frans Hals. It was probably on this occasion that Sargent painted Chadwick’s portrait (location unknown).

The Bridge at Grez was painted in the artist’s colony of Grez-sur-Loing, located seventy kilometers southeast of Paris on the outskirts of the Fontainbleau Forest. Artists began to visit and frequent Grez in the mid-1870s. Among the other American artists to work there between 1875-1885, were Sargent, Robert Vonnoh, William Coffin, Edward Simmons, Will Hicox Low, Theodore Robinson, Willard Metcalf, Alexander Harrison, Bruce Crane, Kenyon Cox, Hiram Bloomer, and Ruger Donoho. Unlike his American colleagues, Chadwick remained in the village, residing there from the early 1880s through the end of his life. While there he met and married the Swedish painter Emma Löwstädt. In 1892, Chadwick and his wife acquired the former Hôtel Beau Séjour, which they continued to own “even when Grez was losing its appeal to the artistic community and the building no longer served as a hotel” (William H. Gerdts, “The American Artist in Grez,” essay in The Painters in Grez-sur-Loing [Osaka, Japan: The Yomiuri Shimbun in cooperation with the Japan Association of Art Museums, 2000], p. 269).

Chadwick’s painting features the bridge known as the Vieux Pont. Many artists depicted this picturesque structure, including the French Barbizon painter Jean Baptiste Corot. The Irish artist John Lavery and the Americans Vonnoh and Bloomer depicted the subject often.

William H. Gerdts has noted that it was the River Loing and the “stone bridge over it, along with the old church, which constituted the glory of the village and offered the most enduring attractions to the art community, both for their visual pleasure and for their pictorial subject-matter” (Ibid, p. 267). Chadwick focused his attention on the reflections in the water and the flat walls and sharply pointed rooflines of Grez’s stucco and terra cotta buildings. In this work he applies paint broadly and pictures the overall silvery-gray atmosphere and poetic quality of light traditionally favored by the artists working there. The painting’s underlying sense of geometric order brings to mind the works painted in the village by Vonnoh. In the 1880s, Chadwick regularly exhibited his Grez landscapes at the Paris Salon.