S. Hollis Clayson, an art historian at Northwestern University and an expert in the art and social history of 19th century Paris, will talk about the electrification of the French capital tonight in the Buffalo History Museum.

The lecture will focus on the work of John Singer Sargent. According to a release, Clayson argues that Sargent’s famous paintings depicting Paris’ Luxembourg Gardens at twilight are not “impressionist” in nature but rather direct responses to the newly installed electric streetlights. “Sargent’s canvases displace the brutality of electric into the poetry of reflected moonlight.”

The talk will have a special resonance in Buffalo, a city with a storied place in the history of electric illumination, which played a major role in the Pan-American Exposition of 1901. The History Museum was originally constructed for the light-infused exposition. Buffalo and Paris, odd as it may sound, also once shared the same nickname: “City of Light.”

“Holly Clayson has worked on everything from the image of the courtesan in Impressionism to the conditions of life and art in Paris under the siege of 1870-71,” University at Buffalo professor Jonathan Katz wrote in a release. “After earning recognition for redefining Impressionism through including the perspective of the unheard, Clayson now sets out to chart the impact of the unseen; the electrification that literally redefined visibility in the last quarter of the 19th century.” – Colin Dabkowski


“John Singer Sargent’s Paris Moon Light: Twilight Disenchanted? – When: 7 tonight. Where: Buffalo History Museum. Admission: Free. Info: 873-9644 or