Americans In Paris

Long before Gene Kelly and the music of George Gershwin romanticized the idea of Americans in Paris, Americans had a passion for Paris. And more than a century ago, they were flocking there to let their creativity flourish.

The love affair, in other words, has been long-lasting, reports CBS Sunday Morning contributor Rita Braver.

"It's true. It's been going on since the beginning, really," says Erica Hirshler.

Hirshler spent four years assembling "Americans in Paris," an exhibit making it's U.S. debut at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, and will later appear at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Covering the period 1860 to 1900, it features 100 paintings by some 40 artists, including landmark works by James McNeill Whistler, John Singer Sargent and Mary Cassatt, as well as paintings by artists you probably don't know, like Robert Vonnoh and Cecilia Beaux.

"There is not an important American artist, certainly not an important American painter whose life isn't fundamentally changed by his experience in Paris," says Adam Gopnik, an art historian and writer for The New Yorker magazine.

Gopnik knows a thing or two about Paris. He was an American in Paris and even wrote a book about it: "Paris To The Moon."

Gopnik explains the American attraction to Paris: "It was a place where you could go and be a bohemian. It was a place where the rules of sex and drinking were much more relaxed than they were anywhere in the protestant and guilt-ridden United States of the 19th century. But it was also a place where you could go and be a good student."