looks irrefutably appealing today. Given the movement’s beautiful landscapes, lush color palettes, and delicate brushwork, it’s not surprising that one exemplar—a haystack
for $110.7 million. Yet Impressionism was once a radical departure from realist, academic painting. In 1874, artists such as Monet,
abandoned the annual Parisian salons, which formalized European artists’ ranks, to organize their own exhibitions. Even Monet’s soft, light-filled canvases took years to catch on. Once they did, in the late 1880s, they helped pave the way for the modernist avant-garde and its fractured picture planes to dominate European art in the early 1900s.
In the late 19th century, however, one woman from Chicago, Bertha Honoré Palmer, made a bold move for her time to become a champion and major collector of Impressionist art. “Few American women, if any, have in modern days appeared in the public eye in as distinctive a way as Mrs. Palmer,” read an obituary in a 1918 issue of the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society. Before women even gained suffrage in the United States (in 1920), Palmer asserted her power through business dealings and art acquisitions. Her patronage ensured that Chicago became an essential city for viewing Impressionist masterpieces—second only, perhaps, to Paris.