Though he died at an incredibly young age, American Impressionist painter John Leslie Breck left behind a distinct legacy as the earliest American painter to craft truly Impressionistic garden scenes and to redefine the genre when he first began to paint by moonlight in 1888. He was also one of the only American painters who were able to enter Claude Monet's innermost circle of friends, and he worked alongside him for several years.
He was born in Boston and had trained in Munich's Royal Academy where his style was influenced by the Tonalist palettes and rapid brushwork so popular among the students and teachers of the period. He then enrolled at the Academie Julian in Paris where he was encouraged to paint "en plein air" and his travels led him to Monet's gardens at Giverny.
Breck would remain a devoted follower of Monet's style, painting outdoors and working to capture the play and effects of light and shadow on every part of the scene. He began to experiment in moonlight painting while at Giverny and continued in this manner when he visited Venice later in his career.
He returned to Boston in 1890 where he had his first solo exhibition, which earned him a great deal of acclaim in the Boston and New York art circles. He continued to paint outdoor scenes, particularly those of the Massachusetts coast. He would still work by moonlight on occasion, and was considered a master of the Impressionist school.
Today, Breck's paintings are in some important private and public collections including the Warner Collection and the Musee d'Art Americain in Giverny and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia.