In The Swan Boats, Luks depicts a group of these titular pontoon pleasure boats in the pond of Boston’s Public Garden. This fleet of swan boats has been in operation since 1877 and was already regarded as a cultural icon for the city by the time the artist moved there in the early 1920s. While Luks, like the other Aschan painters, had previously eschewed European subject matter and technique, he was exposed to and influenced by the work of Matisse and other French Fauvist painters while living and working in the home of Boston socialite Maragrett Sargent. Not only did he draw inspiration from their bright, vivid colors and geometric forms, but he also began to embrace the popular European subject of bourgeois public leisure and the technique of painting en plein air. The Swan Boats is indicative of this European influence, with Luks’ application of small, Impressionist-like brushstrokes of pure color to depict the scene. Utilizing staccato brushwork and heightened color, he captures the effects of light, atmosphere and movement of the water to create a sophisticated city scene.
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