Here comes the warm weather, and the season of the glitzy, sunny art exhibition. Museums all over New England are trotting out shows they hope will be both easy on the eye and intellectually rigorous. Lucky for us, that's not a paradox. Even the most jaded museum-goer may yet swoon in the presence of a sparkling work by John Singer Sargent or Frederic Church. The coming round of exhibits puts an emphasis on American artists of the 19th and early 20th centuries, many of whom delighted in luminosity -- in short, crowd-pleasers. The revelry kicked off yesterday with the opening at Harvard University's Fogg Art Museum of ''American Watercolors and Pastels, 1875-1950." At the same time, there's a sprinkling of contemporary exhibits that tackle thornier issues than sunlight, socializing, and nature's splendor -- just in case you feel the need to sober up from the rest of the visual bacchanalia on tap.
''AMERICANS IN PARIS 1860-1900": Paris was the hotbed for visual art in the latter half of the 19th century. Americans such as John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt, and James McNeill
''PAINTING SUMMER IN NEW ENGLAND": If they weren't going to Paris, artists often summered in New England to soak up the region's pastoral plenty. Guest curator Trevor Fairbrother examines the fruit of their work, offering canvases by artists ranging from Winslow Homer to Alex Katz, painted from the 1850s to the present, and covering everything from fun and games to life in the city. At the Peabody Essex Museum, April 22 through Sept. 4. 866-745-1876. www.pem.org.
''THE CLARK BROTHERS COLLECT: IMPRESSIONIST AND EARLY MODERN PAINTINGS FROM THE COLLECTIONS OF STERLING AND STEPHEN CLARK": Homer, Sargent, and Cassatt are all also featured in the collections of brothers Sterling and Stephen Clark, not to mention Renoir and Picasso. Sterling founded the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, and Stephen donated work to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art. The Clark brings some of the brothers' treasure troves together for its summer show. At the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, June 4 through Sept. 4. 413-458-2303. www.clarkart.edu.
''AMERICAN SPLENDOR: HUDSON RIVER SCHOOL MASTERWORKS FROM THE WADSWORTH ATHENEUM": The Hartford museum has one of the best collections of Hudson River School paintings in the world. Much of it has been on a national tour, but it returns home for a few months before embarking for Europe. Highlights include works by Thomas Cole, Frederic Church, and Albert Bierstadt. At the Wadsworth Atheneum, June 2 through Dec. 31. 860-278-2670. www.wadsworthatheneum.org.
''IN FOCUS: 75 YEARS OF COLLECTING AMERICAN PHOTOGRAPHY": In 1938, when the Addison Gallery of American Art purchased a photo by Margaret Bourke-White, it was one of only a few institutions to seriously collect photography. Today, the Addison's photography collection, numbering 6,000 images, is one to be reckoned with. The museum does just that, reflecting on the role of photography in American culture. At the Addison Gallery of American Art, April 28-July 31. 978-749-4015. www.andover.edu/addison.
''LAURA MCPHEE: RIVER OF NO RETURN": The Boston-based photographer is the daughter of environmental writer John McPhee, and the two share similar concerns. Laura McPhee, who in the past has photographed landscape and its intersection with society all over the world, most recently spent time in Idaho. Her exhibition of large-scale photos at the MFA will examine a rural community's ideas about land use and people's relationship to the natural world. At the MFA, May 13-Sept. 17. 617-267-9300. www.mfa.org.
''ERWIN WURM: I LOVE MY TIME, I DON'T LIKE MY TIME": The Austrian artist is known for his dark sense of humor and his willingness to challenge definitions of sculpture, performance art, video, and drawing. The exhibit presents 10 years' worth of his work, including ''Fat House," in which the form of a house takes on fleshy, Rubenesque curves. At the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University, April 27-July 30. 781-736-3434. www.brandeis.edu/rose.
''THE 2006 DECORDOVA ANNUAL EXHIBITION": Each year, the DeCordova Museum mounts a show highlighting a handful of New England artists making diverse, often cutting-edge art. This year's roster includes robotics from Gretchen Skogerson and Garth Zeglin, assemblages by Jen Simms that are pinned to the wall like a butterfly collection, and video by Christopher Gray that uses theatrical improvisation. At the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park, April 29-Aug. 20. 781-259-8355. www.decordova.org.
''AHISTORIC OCCASION: ARTISTS MAKING HISTORY": What is the first decade of the 21st century all about? Is it a time unlike any other? Just halfway through, it's hard to say. But Mass MoCA has invited artists such as Paul Chan, Kerry James Marshall, and Peggy Diggs to make their own interpretations. They'll examine memory, narrative, the re-creation of the past in the present, and more. At Mass MoCA, opening May 28. 413-662-2111. www.massmoca.org.
''IN OUR TIME: THE WORLD AS SEEN BY MAGNUM PHOTOGRAPHERS": Some of the world's best photojournalists are members of Magnum Photos Inc. The founding members include Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa. Today, Sebastiao Salgado and Eugene Richards are on the roster. This exhibit, which opened this past week, features 100 images by 45 photographers and touches on momentous events from recent history, from the Civil Rights movement to upheaval in the Middle East. At the Portland Museum of Art, 7 Congress Square, Portland, Maine, through June 4. 207-775-6148. www.portlandmuseum.org.