Childe Hassam

Life Dates:
1859 – 1935
Wikipedia Summary:

Frederick Childe Hassam (October 17, 1859 – August 27, 1935) was a prolific American Impressionist painter, noted for his urban and coastal scenes. Along with Mary Cassatt and John Henry Twachtman, Hassam was instrumental in promulgating Impressionism to American collectors, dealers, and museums. He produced over 3,000 paintings, oils, watercolors, etchings, and lithographs over the course of his career, and was an influential American artist of the early 20th century.

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Artist Biography:
Childe Hassam was born in 1859 in Dorchester, Massachusetts. Due to a fire that burned down his family’s hardware business, Hassam went to school at the age of 12 to help earn a living creating wood engravings for magazines, books, and newspapers. In 1882 Hassam became an Illustrator primarily drawing images for children’s stories in magazines and newspapers. While he was working, he attended drawing classes at Lowell Institute of MIT and later at the Academie Julian. His first exhibition was primarily watercolors, it shortly after in 1883 when Hassam visited Britain, Spain, Holland and Italy with is friend, artist Edmund H. Garrett, to study the old masters and paint the European country side. These European landscapes made up his second exhibition in 1884 upon his return to The United States. He traveled between Europe with his wife, Kathleen Doan, after finally settling in New York in 1889. As a young artist, Hassam was very interested in portraying the modern life in the cities, and painted works depicting middle class people out and about in the city, such as Rainy Day, Boston. It was around the mid 1890s, when Hassam really began to focus on modernity as a subject manner. His paintings of modern architecture, like the Brooklyn Bridge depict the rapid industrial changes that were occurring throughout the Europe and The States. However he avoided painting lower-class or avant-guarde subjects in the big cities. His comfort level was painting the upper to middle class people busying about big American cities, or usually singular women in an idyllic natural landscapes. Hassam was greatly interested in “humanity in motion” for the greater part of his artistic career. ( Hassam’s ability to paint much quicker than his contemporaries, up to 40 paintings in the time it took an aver artists of that movement to create six or seven works, may have lead to his popularity in American culture. That and his ability to show a puristic and idyllic depiction of American life is what made him rise to the top. Critics either loved or hated Hassam, noting that his particular style was either too decorative and not to be considered high Art, or stating that he was an puristic independent artist in the middle of moderately good and bad art movements and that his work got back to what they thought painting should be. As an American Impressionist artists, Hassam worked with loose painterly brushstrokes, and the bright color palette. He is primarily known for his coastal landscapes, but also painted figurative and genre paintings. He didn’t refer to himself as an impressionist, and instead thought himself a realist that was interested in more intimate moments of life. Though the cheery genre themes, and his use of portrayal of light and color through the use of painterly brushstrokes shows that he was in fact more alined with the impressionist style of art, than the realist movement, which depicted harsh and mundane scenes and often muddy color palettes. Because of the new technology of photography, there were drastic changes in how paintings were created, and how they were valued. Painters had different reactions to photography, Artists like the impressionists embraced photography and created paintings that resembled photographs, in that they depicted a moment in time, in a very spontaneous appearing composition and cropping of the picture frame. However they used pastel and colorful color palettes. While other artists like members of the French School continued creating portraiture, and figurative works, where lighting was even and figures were in the center of picture frames. American Impressionists were a small group of American artists who came to europe in the late 1800s and the early 1900s, almost 50 years after the initial impressionist movement. American Impressionists are known for having a brighter color palette, and experimenting with post impressionist techniques, like pointillism, or larger fields of color, while still maintaining the painterly feel to the works of art. Hassam remained in contact with Theodore Robinson, one of the founding members of the American Impressionist movement. It was through Robinson that Hassam met Monet, Twatchman, and Wier, who were all living in Giverny at the time. Hassam was one of the core members to the American Impressionist group, however his primary chose of subject matter was urban landscapes. In the summers, Hassam worked with an artistic colony that surrounded the poet Celia Thaxter on Appledore Island. It was there that Hassam would paint women surrounded by flowers, and nature, a more typical American Impressionist subject. Like many of the American Impressionists, Hassam’s paintings are aesthetically pleasing, and often times appear more decorative, however a great skill of technique is discerned from his works. There are also powerful compositions present in his works that mirrors the new technology of photography at many times, as seen in his oil painting, Allies Day, May 1917. The close cropping of the flag lined street and the loose painterly style is very reminiscent of Impressionist works While artists like John Singer Sargent, and James McNeil Whistler left the American art world for Europe, Hassam stayed in America, and reigned in the american art market of that era. Though Hassam did study in France in the 1880s he brought his training back to America, and used technical qualities he picked up there in his work, like the bright color palette found in the work of impressionists. In addition to his paintings, Hassam also created etchings and lithographs, that primarily depicted landscapes and cityscapes. These prints range from intricately detailed almost photographic to abstracted with minimal usage of line to suggest forms. Despite Hassam’s success as a professional artist, he continued to take commercial work, including designing posters for the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893. Shortly after the early 1890s Art buyers stopped supporting American Impressionists, thinking the work was too bland, It was 1897 that Hassam and his wife took a European trip starting with Naples, Paris, then making their way to England. Hassam’s work changed greatly from this trip. His primarily bright and bold color palette, changed to a subtler more pastel one that evoked Monet’s work. Critics in Europe didn’t know what to make of Hassam’s work. They thought it was too experimental to paint modern cityscapes, however despite their negative reviews, Hassam sold enough to earn a living without resorting to teaching for an income. Hassam though seemingly successful hit a mid-life crisis, and a bought of depression. However, this didn’t last long, and Hassam soon after began a healthy regime of swimming and exercise, as well new artistic inspiration in Neo-classical subjects. Later in Hassam’s career was when he started to enjoy his success as an artist. His paintings were selling for around $6000 a piece. He mostly abandoned his urban scenes and started his “window” series of women in japonisque clothing gazing out, or near large picture window. During the first World War, Hassam created many pro-American and Allies paintings, depicting flag lined streets and festivals. He wanted to go to Europe and record the war, however the government wouldn’t allow it, and he was even arrested for sketching the Navy along the river. Hassam continued to create art until his final years. He still painted in his same style, and greatly disliked avant-guarde art movement’s like Surrealism, Cubism that sprang up after the war. Hassam’s work was relatively unknown after his death, until the 1960s, when American Impressionism, and Impressionist art was becoming popular again in the United States. Hassam lead the American Impressionist movement, created thousands of unique and aesthetically beautiful works, and maintained his popularity until his death. Hie subtle changed and modified his technique and subject manner throughout his career but is known for producing art that valued everything that “America” was about at the time. Works Cited

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East Gloucester, July 4th, 1918