MovementsArtistsTimelinesIdeasBlog
About us
Artists Childe Hassam
Childe Hassam Photo

Childe Hassam

American Painter

Movements and Styles: Barbizon School, Impressionism, Post-Impressionism

Born: October 17, 1859 - Dorchester, Massachusetts

Died: August 27, 1935 - East Hampton, Long Island, New York

Childe Hassam Timeline

Quotes

"If taken individually a skyscraper is not so much a marvel of art as a wildly formed architectural freak... It is when taken in groups with their zigzag outlines towering against the sky and melting tenderly into the distance that the skyscrapers are truly beautiful."
Childe Hassam
"I painted the flag series after we went into the war. There was that Preparedness Day, and I looked up the avenue and saw these wonderful flags waving, and I painted the series of flag pictures after that."
Childe Hassam
"I was always interested in the movements of humanity in the street... There is nothing so interesting to me as people. I am never tired of observing them in everyday life, as they hurry through the streets on business or saunter down the promenade on pleasure."
Childe Hassam
"I am often asked what determines my selection of subjects, what makes me lean towards impressionism. I do not know. I can only paint as I do and be myself, and I would rather be myself and work out my ideas, my vagaries, if you please, in color, than turn out Christmas cards and hire a clerk to attend to orders. I am often asked why I paint with a low-toned, delicate palette. Again I cannot tell. Subjects suggest to me a color scheme and I just paint."
Childe Hassam
"I made my sketches from nature in watercolor and I used no white. It was this method that led me into the paths of pure color. When I turned to oils I endeavored to keep my color in that method as vibrant as it was in watercolor."
Childe Hassam

"The portrait of a city, you see, is in a way like the portrait of a person... The spirt, that's what counts, and one should strive to portray the soul of a city with the same care as the soul of a sitter."

Childe Hassam Signature

Synopsis

Childe "Muley" Hassam enjoyed the mystery surrounding his moniker. Playing off the confusion from his surname as to whether he was of Arabic descent, Hassam adopted "Muley," a corruption of the Arabic word for "master," in reference to a fifteenth-century Moorish ruler who appears in Washington Irving's writings. The nickname is fitting, since Hassam's stature as one of the giants of American Impressionism has remained unchallenged since his death. Influenced greatly by French painters of the 1870s and 1880s, Hassam turned his art into an industry that mirrored the rapid industrialization of America at the turn of the twentieth century. In hundreds of works, he strove to depict both the frenzied pace of city life as well as the unspoiled expanses of nature that provided a respite from the urbanization, propagating a certain pride in the nation's past as well as present.

Key Ideas

Hassam's work, like that of the French Impressionists, is intimately concerned with the interaction of light, weather, and surface, especially as they change with the movement of elements within the scene, and often in concert with the frenzied pace of modern urban life. But unlike the French, Hassam avoids uncomfortable political issues in favor of an optimistic view of American industriousness and rural charm.
Hassam treated his art much like a business, aggressively marketing himself and churning out canvases and works on paper by the carload, and gathering associations of artists around him to increase his notoriety. His efforts paid off, as he built a sizeable reputation and fortune over a career spanning more than fifty years.
While Hassam helped create a strand of Impressionism that was distinctly American, he remained connected with the European Art of the 1870s and '80s for the bulk of his career, and frequently maintained ties to foreign lands through his travels; the culmination of his patriotic internationalism is his series of flag paintings supporting the allied cause during World War I.
Hassam's devotion to Impressionism was impressive, as he steadfastly refused to adapt to the innovations in modern art coming from Europe starting in the 1910s, instead ridiculing non-representational abstraction in painting even after its acceptance as cutting-edge modernism by American critics in the interwar era.

Most Important Art

Childe Hassam Famous Art

A Back Road (1884)

A Back Road most significantly reveals the influence of the Barbizon School painters on Hassam. The expansive, agricultural landscape (suggested by the haystack in the distance), wagon, and cloud-filled sky all recall the rural farm scenes of these midcentury French painters, whose work Hassam would have seen on his first trip to Europe in 1883. In Hassam's painting, the sense of stillness and the heat of summer are coupled with an acknowledgment of the vastness of nature that dwarfs the human scale. But unlike the Realist paintings of the Barbizon School, whose content focused on the downtrodden, hand-to-mouth agricultural existence of the French peasantry, Hassam's painting of a solitary laborer driving down a dirt path celebrates the American farming tradition and the lush foliage of the countryside. Here the irregular, winding trail, partly encroached upon by patches of grass, suggest both the power of nature and the struggle of man to carve out his place within it.
Read More ...

Childe Hassam Artworks in Focus:

Biography

Childhood and Education

Frederick Childe Hassam's family had deep New England roots. His father was a cutlery salesman based in Boston whose ancestors arrived in America from England in the seventeenth century with a name that began as Horsham. This name went through a number of spelling changes before becoming Hassam, which would result in questions regarding the future artist's origin with some believing, much to Hassam's amusement, that he was Arabian.

Hassam's interest in art developed at a young age and one of his earliest memories was hiding in an antique coach his father collected, so he could paint undisturbed. His childhood talent was recognized by an aunt who encouraged him by arranging for him to meet with local artists.

The family suffered financially when, in 1872, his father's business was destroyed by a fire resulting in Hassam being forced to leave school and obtain a job to help support the family. Lasting only three weeks in the accounting department of a publishing company, his supervisor suggested upon Hassam's dismissal that since he spent all of his time creating drawings, he might consider a career in art. Taking this advice, Hassam obtained a job in a wood engraving shop, where he quickly rose to the position of draftsman.

Early Training

By 1881 Hassam had opened his own studio, working as a draftsman and freelance illustrator for children's books and magazines; he continued his art education by taking classes at the Lowell Institute and the Boston Art Club. In 1882, he had his first solo exhibition of around fifty watercolors at a Boston gallery, which included works depicting what would become one of his popular themes, landscape paintings of places he visited, such as Nantucket. In fact, travel would inspire Hassam's art throughout his career, including the first of many trips to Europe he made in 1883, where he drank deeply at the well of the French Impressionists.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Childe Hassam Biography Continues

In the early 1880s Hassam met poet Celia Thaxter, whose father owned the Appledore House hotel on the Isles of Shoals, Maine, where she lived and during the mid-to-late nineteenth century welcomed many New England cultural luminaries in a salon-like atmosphere, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Whittier, Sarah Orne Jewett, and William Morris Hunt. Hassam later described the group as a "jolly, refined, interesting and artistic set of people...like one large family." Hassam taught Thaxter to paint, and the crescent shape that began to appear in front of his signature on works of this period were believed to be a reference to Thaxter, who, in her poetry, linked a crescent sun to the artist's emerging fame. As time passed, the crescent was reduced to a simple slash that was later useful when Hassam proved a work considered to be his was a forgery due to the missing mark by his signature. Hassam would produced numerous canvases and watercolors depicting Thaxter's extensive gardens and the islands' seashore.

Hassam had courted Kathleen Maude Doane, a family friend, for several years and finally married her on February 1st, 1884. The new couple moved into an apartment in the South End of Boston, and Hassam's work took on a new focus, the depiction of city scenes. With works such as Rainy Day, Columbus Avenue, Boston (1885), he also demonstrated a fascination with city life, perspective, and the atmospheric effects of weather and light.

Mature Period

Childe Hassam Biography

In the autumn of 1886, Hassam and his wife left Boston for a three-year stay in Paris, where he studied at the prestigious Academie Julian and completed a series of urban and garden scenes. Upon his return, the Hassams settled in New York City where he helped to found the New York Water Color Club. An interesting character, Hassam was known for his dapper style, often wearing tweed suits and sometimes even a monocle.

Shortly after arriving in New York, Hassam met fellow artists John Twachtman and J. Alden Weir at the opening reception for an exhibition of the American Water Color Society. The friendship between the three was in part bonded over a shared affection for and desire to create Impressionist works. This focus was deepened by a friendship with Theodore Robinson, who had worked in Giverny, France with Claude Monet. During this time the group of artists would go together to study works by Monet and other Impressionist masters, such as Edgar Degas and Auguste Renoir, that were on view throughout the city.

Drawing inspiration from city life, Hassam spent the majority of his days traveling through New York City painting the sites, sometimes using a stopped carriage as a studio with an easel set on the seat across from him. During this time, in part inspired by the work of the French painters he had studied, Hassam's work focused on the effects of light on objects which he captured in loose brushstrokes with deliberate color choices. As a result, he would become one of the leaders of American Impressionism, a style that was met with both positive and negative reviews by critics and the public alike.

Later Period

Childe Hassam Photo

From the late 1890s onward, Hassam's style became even more impressionistic with quick brushstrokes that were so thin, one could sometimes almost see the canvas beneath. The increasing modernity of the city with the newly built skyscrapers, along with new summer locations he visited such as East Hampton, Long Island where Hassam would eventually buy a home, provided exciting subjects for the artist.

In a debate over the importance of Impressionism, in December 1897, Hassam and nine other painters left the Society of American Artists to form the Ten American Painters. When this new group began exhibiting their works it was Hassam who was often viewed as the most radical, with one critic writing, "Hassam is as impressionistic as the most extreme could wish."

The outbreak of World War I provided a source of inspiration late in Hassam's career and resulted in the creation of many patriotic-themed works as well as a brief arrest when he unknowingly broke the law by drawing the naval training taking place on the Hudson River. The war was the theme of one of Hassam's greatest series, paintings of American and other flags that lined the many streets of New York City during these years. Capturing the intense patriotism of the period, the works helped raise funds for the war effort while simultaneously raising the American spirit. Despite his best efforts, after the war's end Hassam was unable to keep the nearly thirty flag paintings together as a memorial. Angered by this he wrote in 1919, "I have heard it before!! Nobody ever heard of New York subscribing anything for the fine arts... They [the flag paintings] will probably be sold in the west somewhere - and the enthusiastic New Yorkers will have to pay railroad fare to go and see them! I don't care a damn what you do about it."

Despite his emergence as one of the leaders of a new American art movement, near the end of his life Hassam became increasingly vocal against developing styles of modernism as well as European artists. Battling failing health and increased bouts of drinking, he continued to paint until his death in 1935.


Legacy

Childe Hassam Portrait

Childe Hassam proved quick to pick up on the latest developments in European art in the 1880s and worked assiduously to adapt it to the depictions of modernizing, industrializing America. Yet he also remained a devotee of Impressionism even long after it had been superseded as cutting-edge by other movements in modern art. Hassam's work helped to pave the way for other artists such as Edward Hopper, Charles Burchfield, and Andrew Wyeth, who, while they differed from him stylistically, remained committed to developing a home-grown, distinctively American subject matter.

Influences and Connections

Influences on artist

Artists, Friends, Movements

Influenced by artist

Artists, Friends, Movements

Childe Hassam
Interactive chart with Childe Hassam's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
View Influences Chart

Artists

Claude MonetClaude Monet
Georges SeuratGeorges Seurat
J.M.W. TurnerJ.M.W. Turner
James WhistlerJames Whistler
Pierre-Auguste RenoirPierre-Auguste Renoir

Friends

Celia ThaxterCelia Thaxter

Movements

Barbizon SchoolBarbizon School
ImpressionismImpressionism
Post-ImpressionismPost-Impressionism
Childe Hassam
Childe Hassam
Years Worked: 1878 - 1935

Artists

Maurice PrendergastMaurice Prendergast
Edward HopperEdward Hopper

Friends

Celia ThaxterCelia Thaxter
John Singer SargentJohn Singer Sargent

Movements

American ImpressionismAmerican Impressionism

If you see an error or typo, please:
tell us
Cite this page

Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors

Edited and revised by Peter Clericuzio

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors
Edited and revised by Peter Clericuzio
Available from:
[Accessed ]



By submitting the above you agree to The Art Story privacy policy.

Useful Resources on Childe Hassam

Books

Websites

Articles

Videos

More

The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing of this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.

biography

Childe Hassam: American Impressionist Recomended resource

By Ulrich W. Hiesinger

Childe Hassam: American Impressionist

By H. Barbara Weinberg

artworks

American Impressionist: Childe Hassam and the Isles of Shoals

By Austen Barron Bailly and John W. Coffey

Childe Hassam Recomended resource

By Donelson F. Hoopes

More Interesting Books about Childe Hassam
Childe Hassam American Impressionist Recomended resource

By Carter B. Horsley
thecityreview.com
June 10-September 12, 2004

Childe Hassam loved, and painted the Isles of Shoals

By Sebastian Smee
Boston Globe
July 22, 2016

Met Museum Gets $20M from Astor Estate but Childe Hassam Painting Still Missing

By Hrag Vartanian
Hyperallergic
March 28, 2012

in pop culture

Art Meets Science To Map Where Boston Impressionist Childe Hassam Once Painted

By Andrea Shea
The ARTery
June 18, 2016

Did we succeed in explaining the art to you?
If Yes, please tell others about us: