Sunday, 8 June 2014


“An artist is a creature driven by demons. He doesn’t know why they choose him and he’s usually too busy to wonder why.” - William Faulkner

For Art Sunday today, I’d like to look at the art of Childe Hassam (born October 17, 1859, Boston - died Aug. 27, 1935, East Hampton, NY, US). He was a painter and printmaker, one of the foremost exponents of French Impressionism in American art.  Hassam studied in Boston and Paris (1886–89), where he fell under the influence of the Impressionists and took to painting in brilliant colour with touches of pure pigment. On his return from Paris he settled in New York City, where he became a member of the group known as “The Ten”.

Born on October 17, 1859 in Dorchester, Massachusetts, of impeccable Bostonian lineage, his given name was Frederick Childe Hassam. Hassam showed a love of art at a very early age, but became an accountant at the urging of his father. He left that career after mere weeks and began to train as a draftsman in wood engraving. In 1879, he began experimenting with oil paintings, but quickly moved to watercolour and subsequent work in illustration.

He illustrated children’s stories for magazines such as Harper’s Weekly and continued to study art at Lowell Institute and the Boston Art Club. He continued to paint what was around in him -- particularly cityscapes. After signing early works ‘Fred C. Hassam’, he dropped ‘Fred C.’ and began using ‘F. Childe’ at the urging of artist-friend Celia Thaxter, who felt his middle name both more memorable and marketable. As of 1883, all derivatives of ‘Frederick’ disappeared, and it was strictly ‘Childe Hassam’ from then on.

In 1886, Hassam and his wife moved to Paris, where he studied at the Académie Julian, which left minimal impact on his art, as he was far more interested in what the French Impressionists were doing. Though he didn’t consider himself an Impressionist, he is best known for a similar use of colour, light and brushwork. Hassam continued to paint life around him and earned much acclaim. In 1916, he began creating the ‘Flag Series’, a collection of flag paintings inspired by the war relief effort. The most famous of these, ‘The Avenue in the Rain’, resides in the Oval Office of the White House. Hassam died on August 27, 1935 in East Hampton, New York.

His works are distinctive for their freshness and clear luminous atmosphere. Scenes of New York life remained his favourite subject matter. He also painted landscapes of New England and rural New York that, with their intense blue skies, lush foliage, and shimmering white light, became especially popular. Hassam also produced about 300 black-and-white etchings and lithographs that are notable for their sense of light and atmosphere. The work above is “Celia Thaxter’s Garden, Isles of Should, Maine” painted in 1890. It is characteristic of his sunny, luminous, impressionistic style.


  1. Great choice! I came across Childe Hassam almost by accident. Although now he may be one of the foremost exponents of French Impressionism in American art, I loved the fact that he was just a young man studying at the Académie Julian, along with our most ambitious Australian ex-pats. And then, even better, I found Hassam at the Armory Show of 1913 - an amazing statement about the importance of Impressionism across the Pond.

  2. Absolutely wonderful painting! I must find more of his works now...