The World’s Columbian Exposition, held in Chicago in 1893, celebrated the industrial and cultural contributions of forty-six nations in the five hundred years since Christopher Columbus’s voyages to the New World. The grandeur of the classically inspired structures that dominated the fairgrounds, popularly called the “White City,” attests to the ambition of this international event. The East Lagoon dominates the right side of Robinson’s painting, while at left are the mammoth Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building; the United States Government Building, with an American flag atop its cupola; and the red-roofed Fisheries Building.
Robinson, recently returned to the United States from an extended stay in Giverny, the home of French Impressionist Claude Monet, conceived the fairgrounds as an atmospheric arrangement of light and color. With its pulsating hues, middle-class subject matter, and sunny outdoor setting, World’s Columbian Exposition is a monument of American Impressionism.