By Katie Peters– Arts Editor
When Jim and Kathleen Muller decided to move back to the Boston area from Kentucky, they did not expect to find a piece of history nestled in their home. The unassuming yellow house that sits halfway up Studio Road drew Kathleen in with its beautiful studio, complete with 18-foot high ceilings and huge windows. The two purchased the home in the fall of 1999 and were informed it may have been home to an artist, but much of the information was unknown to them at the time.
It wasn’t until the summer of 2016 when the Mullers found out who once resided in their home. A call from art historian Jeffrey Brown informed Kathleen their home was once the residence of America’s first impressionist painter, John Leslie Breck. Brown sent the Mullers a picture of Breck sitting in front of a unique fireplace in his Auburndale home, the same fireplace that is in the Muller’s first-floor living room.
“It was just thrilling to know that this was his home,” says Kathleen. “Not too long ago we went to Giverny to see Monet’s garden…It was very special to be there and to be at some of the places that we read about.”
Breck designed and painted in his home’s studio. He was one of the few artists to study under Claude Monet in Giverny [France] in the late 1880s. After spending time painting in the French countryside, he returned to America in 1890 to show off the skills he learned.
Breck’s first show in Boston, after returning from France at St. Botolph Club, was a huge success. He would then travel to and from Europe, mainly France and Italy, for the next six years, painting landscapes and the occasional portrait or group of people with the techniques he learned from Monet.
Breck settled into his home in Auburndale in 1896 where he would spend the last three years of his life. With the help of friend Frederick Johnson, the two built the studio where he would perfect works such as “Village In Winter.”
Though there have been numerous additions and alterations to the house, the studio has remained unrefurbished. “We feel [the house] has a certain magic to it, we’re just so happy that we have it,” says Kathleen. Sometime after Breck’s death, the street was renamed Studio Road.
Another historic tie Breck has with Lasell’s campus was from his former fiancée, Nellie Plummer. She, along with her brother, Fred, and mother, Annie, lived in a house on Woodland Road that was donated to Lasell in 1945 by Fred in memory of his late sister. Plummer House remains a piece of this campus to this day.