American Impressionism: Frederick Childe Hassam

14 Jan

Frederick Childe Hassam, Celebration Day (1918)

Note: click on any image to enlarge

Frederick Childe Hassam, known almost universally simply  as Childe Hassam (“Childe” is pronounced like the word “child” and “Hassam” is rendered as “HASS’m”) is one of the most important Impressionists in American art history and a favorite of mine.  (What’s not to like?)  Born in Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1859 Hassam showed an early talent for art but received little formal training during his childhood.  He eventually became a magazine and newspaper illustrator and started exhibiting paintings on the side, to almost immediate success.

Frederick Childe Hassam, circa early 20th Century

Hassam was influenced early on by William Morris Hunt and by the great Barbizon School painter Jean-Baptist Camille Corot — another of my favorites.  Like Corot and the rest of the Barbizon School, Hassam in his early years was interested in working directly from nature, most often utilizing a warm, earthy color palette in the Barbizon tradition.  In 1882 he traveled around Europe, studying the works of the Old Masters.  He was particularly taken by the watercolors of J.M.W. Turner.  Watercolors that Hassam painted during this trip served as the basis for his second major public exhibition.

Frederick Childe Hassam, Blossoms (c. 1880-83)

Frederick Childe Hassam, Church Procession, Spanish Steps (1883)

Frederick Childe Hassam, A City Fairyland (1886)

Frederick Childe Hassam, Boston Common at Twilight (c. 1885-86)

Over the years Hassam returned repeatedly to France and continued to be strongly influenced by the art he encountered there.  In the late summer of 1887 he had an artistic breakthrough and began employing the softer, brighter colors of the Impressionists.  There is a striking difference between Hassam’s work before and after the summer of 1887, as the posted images attest.

Frederick Childe Hassam, At the Cafe (c. 1887-89)

Frederick Childe Hassam, After Breakfast (1887)

Frederick Childe Hassam, Cat Boats, Newport (1901)

Frederick Childe Hassam, Apple Trees in Bloom, Old Lyme (1904)

Frederick Childe Hassam, Broadway and 42nd Street (1902)

Like most of the American Impressionists, Hassam was active in art colonies, particularly the one on Appledore Island (one of the Isles of Shoals), New Hampshire.  A prominent resident of Appledore Island was the poet Celia Thaxter, with whom Hassam was friendly.  Hassam produced several paintings of Ms. Thaxter and her flower garden during his summers on the island.

Hassam was also one of the founders — and probably the most prominent original member — of the Ten American Painters, usually referred to as “The Ten,” a group of artists who broke away from the Society of American Artists in late 1897 to protest its commercialism and move in a new (more impressionistic) direction.  My last blog post featured another founding member of The Ten, John Henry Twachtman, and the works of every member are spectacular.  Starting at about the time of the famous New York Armory Show of 1913,  other art movements began to overshadow Impressionism, which receded from vogue and only began regaining popularity in the 1950s.  I find it astounding that works such as these could ever be out of style!

Frederick Childe Hassam, Cliff Rock, Appledore (1903)

Frederick Childe Hassam, Celia Thaxter’s Garden, Appledore, Isle of Shoals (1890)

Frederick Childe Hassam, August Afternoon, Appledore (1900)

Frederick Childe Hassam, The El, New York (1894)

Frederick Childe Hassam, Casa Eby, Cos Cob (date unknown)

Frederick Childe Hassam, Building the Schooner (1900)

During and after World War I, Hassam produced a series of paintings depicting not just the American flag but also, in many cases, flags of the American Allies.  All are quite striking, depicting the flags as they were flown over city streets during parades and holidays.  The most famous of these is probably The Avenue in the Rain (1917) which has hung in the White House since the Kennedy administration.  President Barack Obama had the painting moved into the Oval Office, where it is prominently displayed.  Excellent move, Mr. President!

Frederick Childe Hassam, The Avenue in the Rain (1917) – currently on display in the Oval Office, the White House, Washington, D.C.

Frederick Childe Hassam, Avenue of the Allies (1917)

Frederick Childe Hassam, Avenue of the Allies, Great Britain (1918)

4 Responses to “American Impressionism: Frederick Childe Hassam”

  1. Jane January 15, 2012 at 12:33 am #

    Bob, I was not familiar with this artist at ALL! His work is amazing! Thank you so much for introducing me to a new artist to discover and love! His work is amazing! Move over, Monet!

    • bobbalouie January 15, 2012 at 1:08 am #

      Isn’t Hassam great? I’m glad you like the post! I’m going to try to work my way through all of The Ten and move on to other art colonies, including the one in Brown County, Indiana. There are a lot of gems hidden out there!

  2. Anonymous March 11, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

    Several years ago I bought a box of 12 Christmas cards, all interesting art. I have wished several times I’d kept one of each. Didn’t know the artist. Recently admired another print, checked the artist — it was by Hassam! My first introduction to his work, and now I love it so much. Browsing online galleries, I recognized my long lost Christmas cards — Hassam’s work. Love it.

  3. truyện kiếm hiệp hay nhất mp3 April 28, 2014 at 2:34 pm #

    Thanks for your personal marvelous posting! I truly enjoyed reading it, you could be a great author.I will be sure to
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