Today's Hours
Museum: 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Gardens: 7:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Today's Hours
Museum: 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Gardens: 7:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Hassam, Childe
Collection: American Collection
Specialty: Paintings
View Artwork
In 1892, French and American Impressionism celebrated a symbolic marriage
in Theodore Robinson's painting, "The Wedding March". The actual wedding
taking place was that of American Impressionist Theodore Butler to Suzanne
Hoschede, stepdaughter of Claude Monet, arguably the high priest of French
Impressionism. However, the merger of French and American Impressionism
could be said to have already occurred in the person of two remarkable
artists: Mary Cassatt, who, despite her American birth, is widely seen as
a seminal figure in French Impressionism, and Childe Hassam, who, though
considered the leading American Impressionist, attained his first fame
with Parisian street scenes. At the 1937 exhibition, "Leaders of American
Impressionism", John I. H. Baur, a leading art scholar, declared that Mary
Cassatt and Childe Hassam were "pioneer Impressionists" who had
"contributed most to the inauguration and development of Impressionism in
America ".

Cassatt was at the height of her international career just as Childe
Hassam was beginning his. Despite his exotic name, Hassam (HASS-am), born
October 17, 1859 in Dorchester, Massachusetts, was the descendant of
Puritan forbears, including the same William Hathorne from whom the
celebrated writer Nathaniel Hawthorne was descended. His family, like
Cassatt's, were well-to-do, but unlike Cassatt's, preferred to stay close
to their New England roots. After attending several practical schools and
receiving some individual instruction from artists, Hassam became a
successful illustrator. He made his first trip to Europe in 1883, but it
seems to have had little effect on his painting. In 1884, he married
Kathleen Maud Doane, also the descendant of an early Puritan family. In
1886, they traveled to Paris so that Hassam could study at the Academie
Julian. It was there that Hassam developed Impressionist techniques,
though he always denied the influence of the French, claiming that the
English Sisley and Turner and Dutch painter Johan Jongkind were the only
artists for whom he felt real appreciation. Nonetheless, he began to
create dazzling Parisian street scenes using the Impressionists' sense of
immediacy, loose brushwork, and high key palette.

By the time he settled in New York in 1889, he was committed to
Impressionism. For a time, he created urban scenes of New York that echoed
his Parisian paintings, but beginning in 1890, he began to branch out into
works based on the New England countryside where he had his summer home.
In 1897, he became one of The Ten, a group of American Impressionists who
chose to exhibit independently of the Society of American Artists. By this
time, he was a well known and extremely well compensated artist, famous
for his landscapes of Appledore Island and New England churches. During
World War I, Hassam painted what would become his most celebrated
paintings - the series known as the "Flag Paintings", 30 works in which
critic Robert Hughes declares, "he was constructing images of American
patriotism and of Allied cooperation; he wanted to symbolize the good
guys' power to win." Hassam was deeply conservative and reacted negatively
to the European modernism that led to the decline of Impressionism after
the war. He nonetheless managed to remain both popular and prolific until
his death on August 27, 1935, a passing which Baur identified as the death
of Impressionism itself.

Everl Adair, Director of Research and Rare Collections