A Virginian by birth, Hugh Henry Breckenridge became a fixture in the vibrant late nineteenth century art community in Philadelphia, earning renown as both a painter and beloved teacher. A precocious artist from an early age, Breckenridge enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1887, launching an association that would endure for fifty years. A subsequent scholarship funded the artist’s first foreign study in Paris, where he received instruction from Adolphe-William Bouguereau, Louis Ferrier, and Jacques Doucet at the Academie Julian in 1892. While abroad, Breckenridge traveled extensively throughout Europe and was influenced by the work of master impressionists. A second European tour in 1909 awakened Breckenridge to the avant garde European trends of that period, including fauvism and, later, cubism.
Back in America, Breckenridge became an instructor at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1894, a post he held for decades. With his colleague Thomas Anshutz, he later established the Darby School of Painting in nearby Darby and eventually opened his own school in Gloucester, Massachussetts. Breckenridge maintained a waterfront studio in the seaside town, its coastline and landscape the frequent subjects for his canvas. Breckenridge also executed lucrative portrait commissions.
Breckenridge’s oeuvre reflects stylistic versatility, an abiding fascination with color, and signature brushwork, whether displayed in the impressionistic landscapes of his early and late career, or in the more modernist abstract works of his mid-life. He exhibited widely, garnering prizes, critical acclaim, and commercial success, and was a member of the most prestigious American art organizations; in 1913, he was named as associate of the National Academy of Design. In addition, Breckenridge enjoyed close associations with other leading artists of the day, including Robert Henri, William Merritt Chase, Arthur B. Carles, Walter Schofield, and John Marin, among others.
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