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Childe Hassam
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New York
One of the great American Impressionist painters and printmakers, Childe Hassam is particularly remembered for his landscapes and urban scenes. He was born in Dorchester, Mass. (now part of Boston) in 1859, the son of a prosperous merchant and antiquarian. Educated in local schools, Hassam did not finish high school, and after working briefly for a publishing company was apprenticed to George E. Johnson, a wood engraver, under whom he soon rose to work as a draftsman. Hassam then worked as a free-lance illustrator for a variety of periodicals. From around 1878 he took evening classes at the Boston Art Club, briefly studied at the Lowell Institute under William Rimmer (1816-1892) and took painting lessons from Ignaz Marcel Gaugengigl (1855-1932), a German painter who had come to Boston. In 1882 Hassam exhibited watercolor landscapes in a one-man show at Boston’s Williams & Everett Gallery and at the Boston Art Club’s exhibition. The following year he traveled to Europe, visiting Britain, France, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain and exhibited 67 watercolors painted on the trip at the Williams & Everett Gallery. Apparently buoyed by sales of his works, Hassam married Kathleen Maude Doan (1861-1946) in early 1884. He began painting urban scenes, and showed those works in 1885 at Boston exhibitions. Hassam and Maude traveled to Paris in the fall of 1886, where they lived for three years. He studied at the Académie Julian under Gustave Boulanger (1824-1888) and Jules Joseph Lefebvre (1836-1912), and became friends with a number of young American artists then working and studying in Paris. The light-filled, colorful works of the French Impressionists soon influenced Hassan’s art. Works by Hassan were accepted for display at the 1887 and 1888 Paris Salons. Also in 1887, a Boston gallery held a successful sale of oil paintings and watercolors he had consigned to them. He received a bronze medal for works exhibited at the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris and exhibited in galleries in Paris and Boston. The Hassams settled in New York City on their return in 1889. He joined the Society of American Artists and the American Water Color Society. His new friends included Frederic Remington (1861-1909), John Henry Twachtman (1853-1902) and Julian Alden Weir (1852-1919). While working in Manhattan, the Hassams summered on the New England coast for many years, including time on Appledore Island, part of the Isles of Shoals near the Maine/New Hampshire border. He had met Celia Thaxter (1835-1894), a poet and arts patron who owned a hotel on the island, whose lavish garden inspired many paintings and his illustrations for her book, “An Island Garden” (1894). Hassam showed his works at exhibitions in Boston, New York City and Philadelphia, and won medals for painting and watercolors at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. He and his wife returned to Europe in late 1896 for about a year, visiting England, France and Italy. On their return, Hassam joined Twachtman, Weir and seven other artists in resigning from the Society of American Artists to form a group known as Ten American Artists to hold annual exhibitions, the first of which was held in New York following year. The Ten, who brought in replacements (such as William Merritt Chase (1849-1916)) as members died, exhibited together for twenty years. During the first decade of the 20th century Hassam spent summers at the art colonies of Cos Cob and Old Lyme, Conn, as well as two summers in eastern Oregon. He was elected an associate member of the National Academy of Design in 1902. While in Paris on a trip to Europe in 1910, he painted the Bastille Day celebration as seen from his hotel balcony, “July Fourteenth, Rue Daunou” (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art), a precursor to his later “flag paintings.” In 1914 Hassam visited San Francisco to paint his mural “Fruits and Flowers” for the Court of Palms in the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. At the PPIE in 1915, Hassam was one of eight American artists given a one-man gallery, where 38 of his works were hung. Also in 1915 Hassam began to make prints; he would ultimately make 380 etchings and 45 lithographs. With the start of World War I, he created his famous series of “flag paintings” showing parades on New York’s Fifth Avenue (1916-1918). In 1919 Hassam bought a home in East Hampton on Long Island, then a community of artists, where he worked during the summer until his death. He continued to exhibit his prints and paintings extensively, and to win prizes, medals and other honors, including full membership of the National Academy of Design in 1920. The California Palace of the Legion of Honor held a one-man exhibition of his works in 1929. Despite a serious illness, he moved as usual to East Hampton in the spring of 1935 and died there in August. (TNB 9/2015) Selected bibliography: Adelson, Warren, Jay E. Cantor and William H. Gerdts. Childe Hassam. Impressionist. Exhibition catalog. New York: Adelson Galleries, Inc. and Houston: Meredith Long & Company, 1999. Weinberg, H. Barbara, et al. Childe Hassam: American Impressionist. Exhibition catalog. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art; New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004.