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 Childe (Frederick) Hassam  (1859 - 1935)

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Lived/Active: New York/Massachusetts      Known for: flag parades, figure and interior scene painting, etchings

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Childe Hassam
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Flags, Afternoon on the Ave
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, Childe Hassam became one of America's most noted Impressionist painters, but he never labelled himself in that way asserting he was more interested in the emotional content of his paintings than the technique of applying color. He also completed over 350 etchings and drypoints and about 45 lithographs, most of them after he was 56 years old. Watercolor was another specialty, and Hassam was one of the founders of the New York Water Color Society.

His parents were well educated and of New England Puritan heritage. They named him Frederick Childe Hassam, but he dropped that first name early in his career because someone persuaded him that the name of Childe was more exotic.

He left high school to work as a wood engraver and illustrator and in the1870s, studied art at the Lowell Institute and the Boston Art Club under Ignaz Gaugengigl. In 1883, he had his first one-man exhibition of watercolors at the prestigious Williams & Everett Gallery in Boston, and that same year, he and his wife, Kathleen Maude Doan, traveled to Europe and lived for three years in Paris.

On this journey, Hassam had his first opportunity to view Impressionism, the style of painting for which he would become known. He studied at the Academie Julian under Louis Boulanger and Jules Lefebvre, but he rejected the Academy's teaching methods of conformity to focus on the tenets of Impressionism.

He was a founder of the Ten American Painters, active from 1898 to 1919 in rebellion against what the members perceived as mediocrity of the Society of American Artists, a group led by John La Farge and George Inness who earlier had defected from the National Academy of Design.

In 1899, he settled in New York and spent most of the rest of his life painting east coast landscapes although he did mural decoration in Portland, Oregon in 1904. Many of his paintings in the 1890s and 1900s were scenes of New York City where he loved to capture the life of the city combined with his unique sense of color and mood. It was a time when New York was building many skyscrapers, and the skyline was ever-changing.

He also painted on the Isles of Shoals off the coast of New Hampshire where he often painted in the famous gardens of artist Celia Baxter at Appledore. He also painted many landscapes around East Hampton, New York at the invitation of his friend Gaines Ruger Donoho. In 1919, he and his wife purchased a home there adjacent to Donoho's widow.

From 1903, he began painting in Old Lyme, Connecticut, where his influence turned the focus of Art Colony painters from the sombre palette of Tonalism to the bright colors and quick brush strokes of Impressionism. He also painted in California, and in 1925, made drawings of the colonial churches in Charleston, South Carolina, from which he created etchings. During World War I, he painted a series of flags asserting his strong patriotism, and he did a handful of portraits, which in his later years he recalled as numbering about eight.

Source:

Matthew Baigell, Dictionary of American Art
Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art
Magazine Antiques , July 2003
Peter Hastings Falk, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born on Oct. 17, 1859 in Dorchester, MA. When quite young Hassam was apprenticed to a Boston wood engraver. His art studies were begun at the Boston Art Club (1878) and while studying at Académie Julian in Paris (1886-89), he was greatly influenced by Boulanger and Lefebvre. Returning to the U.S. with medals from the Paris Salons, he became one of the best-known Impressionists in the U.S and was elected to the National Academy. He was in San Francisco in 1908, 1914, and again in 1915 during the PPIE at which an entire room was devoted to his work; in 1927 he spent several months painting in southern California, and made his final trip to San Francisco in 1929. As well as oils he also produced etchings and lithographs. He died in Easthampton, NY on Aug. 27, 1935. Exh: Mechanics' Inst. Fair (SF), 1886; Palace Hotel (SF), 1914; CPLH, 1929 (solo). In: Oakland Museum; PAFA; MM; Denver Museum; Library of Congress; CGA.
Source:
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs, et Graveurs (Bénézit, E); Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors & Engravers (Fielding, Mantle); NY Times, 8-28-1935 (obituary).
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

Biography from Hollis Taggart Galleries (Artists, E-O):

Childe Hassam (1859-1935)

Childe Hassam, a pioneer of the American Impressionist style, had a long and very prolific career. By the time of his death in 1935, many critics and artists considered him one of the most significant and influential American painters. His friend and colleague, Boston artist Edmund Charles Tarbell (1862-1938), claimed that Hassam was “one of the great painters of America.”(1)  Born Frederick Childe Hassam (he later stopped using his first name) on October 17, 1859, he grew up in Dorchester, Massachusetts, then a suburb of Boston. He had a notable artistic and literary lineage and counted both William Morris Hunt (1824-1879) and Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) among his relatives. At an early age, he developed an interest in drawing and took his first drawing classes in grade school.

Hassam began his artistic career as a commercial illustrator and a watercolorist in Boston, but soon thereafter he enrolled in drawing and painting classes at the Lowell Institute, a school of practical design, and life classes at the Boston Art Club. In 1883 Hassam, accompanied by the illustrator Edmund H. Garrett (1853-1929), traveled to Europe for the first time. During this trip, he studied art in galleries and museums in Great Britain, Holland, Spain, and Italy, and painted numerous watercolors that he exhibited upon his return at the Williams & Everett Gallery in Boston. After some early success as an artist and his marriage to [Kathleen] Maud Doane in 1884, Hassam decided to go to Paris to finish his artistic training. In the fall of 1886, he enrolled at the Académie Julian where, like many other American artists of this period, he pursued the study of figure drawing and exhibited at the Salon. Complaining that the Académie Julian’s routine did not permit originality, he left in the spring of 1888. His departure from formal training resulted in a dramatic increase in his output. Hassam remained in Paris until late October of 1889 when he returned to Boston for a brief period before moving to Manhattan.

Hassam quickly became active in the flourishing art world in New York. In 1890, he helped found the New York Water Color Club, joined the American Water Color Society, and was elected to two social and exhibiting organizations for progressive artists, the Players Club and the Society of American Artists. In 1897, he participated in the establishment of the Ten American Painters, an exhibiting society that included William Merritt Chase (1849-1916), Edmund Charles Tarbell, John Twachtman (1853-1902), and Julian Alden Weir (1852-1919). As H. Barbara Weinberg, the Alice Pratt Brown Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, explains, “his involvement in these and other groups was crucial, as they abetted his lifelong campaign to show and sell his works through regular exhibitions” in New York and throughout the United States.(2) 

From 1890 to 1919, Hassam and his wife spent almost every winter in Manhattan and nearly every summer in New England. Prior to 1914, they went to Appledore Island in the Isles of Shoals, off the coast of New Hampshire, and often combined their visit there with a brief stay in Gloucester, Massachusetts. After the turn of the century, they began to visit picturesque, historically significant towns with artist colonies in Connecticut, including Cos Cob, Greenwich, and Old Lyme. In 1919, they purchased a house in East Hampton, Long Island, and settled there in the summer months. During these summers, Hassam was very productive, and he returned to New York with a large group of pictures ready for sale. In addition to these excursions, he made five extended visits to Europe. Throughout his career, his travels provided opportunities for him to exchange ideas with other painters and to familiarize himself with the latest trends in art. 

Since Hassam rarely worked on commission, he ostensibly had the freedom to paint what he wished. He created intimate interior and exterior images of people laboring or engaging in a leisure activity, and he represented panoramic city or country views in which figures appear small in scale or not at all. In addition to these landscapes, cityscapes, and interior scenes, he produced still lifes and nudes. Experimenting with a variety of media, he worked in watercolor, oil, and pastel, and toward the end of his career he took up etching (1915) and lithography (1917). Rather than permanently adopting one artistic style, Hassam altered his approach according to the progressive aesthetics of the period. His early pictures of Boston streets and rural New England landscapes with their subdued, tonalist palette, smooth application of paint, and clear linear perspective suggest the influence of the French Barbizon School painters, whose work was popular among American artists and collectors. After studying in Paris, he changed his style and expanded his repertoire of subjects.

His depictions of New York and Appledore with their bright tones, quick, short brushwork, and less exacting recession into space recall the French Impressionist pictures of Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894), Edgar Degas (1834-1917) and Claude Monet (1840-1926). In the second decade of the twentieth century, he transformed his style once again. Compared with his Impressionist pictures, these late works, usually on larger canvases, display a greater intensity of color, a more rhythmic brushwork, a rigid, geometric representation of space and a “classical” or highly symbolic subject matter. These images allude to the impact of Post-Impressionism, the modern mural aesthetic, Symbolism, and the large scale works of the French artist Puvis de Chavannes (1824-1898). Hassam’s shifts in style, his use of a variety of media, and his diverse subject matter not surprisingly led one early twentieth-century critic to call him “the ambidextrous Childe Hassam.” (3)

Hassam received many awards and accolades both in the United States and in Europe. His patrons included the well-known American art collectors George A. Hearn, Charles Freer, and John Gellatly. Throughout his career, he promoted American art in numerous published interviews and writings, expressing great faith in its future. Although he became increasingly concerned with the direction of American art in the early decades of the twentieth century, just before his death in August 1935, he bequeathed all the paintings remaining in his studio to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York. Respecting his wish, this organization sold many of his pictures to establish a fund for the purchase of American art, which, in turn, was presented to museums.

1) Edmund Charles Tarbell to Maud Doane Hassam, n.d., Childe Hassam Papers, American Academy of Arts and Letters records, Archives of American Art, Washington, D.C.
2) H. Barbara Weinberg, “Hassam in New York, 1899-1896” in H. Barbara Weinberg and Elizabeth E. Barker, Childe Hassam: American Impressionist (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art; New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004), 87.
3) Charles L. Buchanan, “The Ambidextrous Childe Hassam,” International Studio 67 (January 1916): 83.


Biography from Pierce Galleries, Inc.:
Childe Hassam (American, 1859-1935):

Hassam is recognized worldwide as one of the most accomplished, uniquely inspired American painters. He was a founding member of “The Ten” in 1898. His New York street scenes are extremely desirable.

Born Frederick Childe Hassam October 17, 1859 in Dorchester, MA the son of Boston merchant Frederick Fitch Hassam and Rose Hawthorn. Married Kathleen Maud Doane (1884). Died in North Hampton, NY on August 27, 1935.


Studied: George E. Johnson (apprenticed as wood engraver, 1876); Boston Art Club (1877-1878); Lowell Institute with William Rimmer; privately with Ignaz Gaugengigl, Boston (1879); Academie Julian with Boulanger, Lefebvre, Doucet (1886-1889)).

Member: Society of American Painters; Ten American Painters (1898); Societe Nationale des Beaux Arts, Paris; The Secession, Munich; American Water Color Club; National Institute of Arts & Letters (1898); American Academy of Arts & Letters (1920); Boston Art Club; Guild of Boston Artists; National Academy of Design (Associate 1902; Academician 1906); Association of American Painters & Sculptors (1911); N.Y. Water Color Club (founder).

Awards: Paris Expo. World’s Fair (1889, bronze); Munich International Art Expo. (1892, gold); Philadelphia Art Club (1892, gold); Chicago Expo. (1893, medal); Cleveland Art Assoc. (1893, gold); SAA (1895, Webb Prize); Boston Art Club (1896, medal); Carnegie Institute (1898, medal; 1905 gold; 1906 prize); PAFA (1899, gold); Paris Expo. (1900, silver); Buffalo (1904, gold); St. Louis Expo. (1904, gold); NAD (1905, Thomas B. Clarke Prize & gold; 1926 1st Altman Prize; 1935, Saltus gold); SAA (1906 Carnegie Prize); PAFA (1906, Lippincott Prize; 1910, Sesan Gold Medal; 1919 Clarke Prize; 1931 gold; AWCS (1912, Evans Prize); Phila. Art Club (1915, medal; 1924, gold); Amer. Watercolor Club (Hudnut Prize 1919); Brooklyn Society of Etchers (1931 Bijur Prize); N.Y. Art Dealer’s Assoc. (gold medal, 1934); Newport Art Club (1935, Elliott Memorial Prize).

Solo exhibitions include: Machbeth Gallery (1900, 1925); Montross Gallery (1905, 1906, 1911, 1912, 1914); Columbia Univ. (1907); O’Brien’s Gallery, Chicago (1910, 1913); Worcester Art Museum (1916); Roullier’s Gallery, Chicago (1916); Dayton Gallery, Wash., DC (1917); Durand-Ruel (1918, 1926); Milch Gallery (1919, 1943, 1947, 1952, 1958); College of the City of NY (1920); Corcoran Gallery (1923, 1966); Keppel Gallery, NY (1923); Harlow & Co., NY (1928); MFA, Syracuse (1928); Brooks Mem. Art Gallery, Memphis (1929); Montclair Museum, NJ (1936); Metropolitan Museum (1940) and many more.

Work: Metropolitan Museum of Art; Museum of F.A., Boston; Corcoran Gallery; National Gallery of Art; Worcester Art Museum; National Gallery; NAD; PAFA; RISD; and hundreds more.

Biography from Nedra Matteucci Galleries:
Frederick Childe Hassam was born in 1859 in Dorchester, a small suburb of Boston. Here Hassam experienced a pleasurable mid-century upbringing until his father, Frederick Fitch Hassam underwent a financial collapse with his merchant business. This forced Hassam to leave high school at age 17 in search of employment. He first found himself doing financial work for Little Brown and Co Publishing. Quickly, Hassam realized that finance was not his calling. He was let go, and advised by his supervisor to consider a career in arts since he spent all of his time drawing.

As one door closed the rest of the world opened for Hassam. He began working for George E. Johnson, a wood engraver in Boston. In 1882, after two years of training, Hassam moved to Boston and began exhibiting his artwork.

In 1883, Hassam met Celia Thaxter, who became an important and influential friend and mentor. Thaxter suggested Hassam neglect his first name of Frederick, and go by his middle name of Childe. Hassam made frequent visits to Thaxter's estate on Appledore Island in Maine. Hassam painted extensively from Thaxter's garden in the plein-air style throughout his career. Hassam's desire for further education and experience resulted in multiple trips to Europe. The French Barbizon school painters were of great influence.

Hassam fell ill in the spring of 1935, and passed away August of the same year in his East Hampton home. Hassam is without a doubt one of the leading pioneers of American Impressionism.

Source:
Adelson, Warren, Jay E. Cantor, and William H. Gerdts. Childe Hassam: Impressionist. New York: Abbeville Publishing Group, 1999.

Biography from William A. Karges Fine Art - Beverly Hills:
One of America’s foremost Impressionists, Childe Hassam was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, in 1859. He studied at the Boston Art Club, and the Academie Julian in Paris, from which he returned with a number of awards from entries in the Paris Salon.

In 1899 Hassam settled in New York where he was a founder of the Ten American Painters, a group which exhibited together from 1898-1918. The majority of his works were painted along the eastern seaboard, though he did make several trips to California. An entire room was devoted to Hassam’s works at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco.

Biography from Spanierman Gallery:
The son of a hardware merchant, Childe Hassam was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, in 1859.  His ancestors included a number of sea captains and Revolutionary War patriots.  Through his mother, he was related to the novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne and through his paternal grandfather, held ties with the Hunt Family, including the Boston painter William Morris Hunt and the architect, Richard Morris Hunt.

After demonstrating an aptitude for drawing during his youth, Hassam became apprenticed to a Boston wood engraver in 1876.  He was soon employed locally as a freelance illustrator, becoming a well-known figure in the profession through his work for such journals as Harper's, Century and Scribner's. 

Intent on developing his skills as a painter, he took evening classes at the Boston Art Club during 1877-1878 and studied privately with such artists as Dr. William Rimmer and Ignaz M. Gaugengigl.  During this early period, Hassam also came under the influence of his kinsman, William Morris Hunt, who introduced him to the aesthetics of the French Barbizon School.  His first noncommercial work was in watercolor, a medium that he would continue to favor for the rest of his career.

Hassam made his first trip to Europe in 1883, visiting England, France, Spain, Italy, and The Netherlands.  Returning to Boston, he exhibited sixty-seven watercolors at the galleries of Williams & Everett to much critical acclaim.  He then began to paint the streets and parks of Boston, often depicting them under rainy or overcast skies.  At that time, he employed an essentially tonalist palette of quiet browns and greys, his concerns revolving around the portrayal of light and atmospheric perspective.

Hassam made a second trip abroad in 1886, spending most of the next three years in Paris.  Although he attended classes at the Académie Julian, the most formative experience of this journey leading to his eventual assimilation of Impressionist tenets.  While in Paris, Hassam showed successfully at a number of exhibitions, including the Paris Salon, the Exposition Universelle (where he received a bronze medal) and at the noted Galerie Georges Petit.

Returning to America in the fall of 1889, Hassam settled in New York City.  He continued to pursue his interest in Impressionism, quickly developing a style characterized by brilliant light, vivid color and shimmering brushwork yet still reflecting his concern for descriptive realism.  During the summer of 1890, he made his first visit to Appledore, one of the small islands off the New Hampshire coast.  He continued these annual excursions for over twenty years, producing what the scholar Donelson Hoopes has referred to as works that "possess a conviction and palpability of light and atmosphere that transformed this unremarkable little island into an American Etretat."(1)

By the early 1900's, critics such as Albert Gallatin were proclaiming that Hassam was "beyond any doubt the greatest exponent of Impressionism in America."(2)  Throughout the course of his career, Hassam explored such subjects as New York street scenes, New England landscapes, interior genre subjects and during the first world war, his famed series of flag paintings. 

In 1904, 1908 and 1914, he made trips to the American West, painting in California and Oregon, where he was deeply inspired by the clear blue skies and the rolling landscape.  In some of his later work, he began to experiment with pure color, simplified compositions and elongated brushwork, reflecting his awareness of Post-Impressionist design principles.  After 1915, he developed an interest in printmaking, etching in particular.  He quickly acquired a firm command of graphic techniques, which he pursued with skill and acumen, for the rest of his life.

Childe Hassam remained an influential and prolific artist throughout his career.  In 1898, he helped found the Ten American Painters, a group of artists who seceded from the Society of American Artists in order to show their work in small, non-juried exhibitions held annually form 1898 until 1918.  The membership consisted of such eminent painters as John Henry Twachtman, J. Alden Weir and Thomas Dewing. 

Hassam was also affiliated with the New York Water Color Club, which he helped establish, the American Water Color Society, and the Pastel Society of New York.  He was a regular contributor to the exhibitions of the National Academy of Design, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the Carnegie International.

Childe Hassam made East Hampton, Long Island, his permanent summer residence in 1919.  He died there in 1935.  A year after his death, at the convocation given in his honor by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the eminent critic Royal Cortissoz described him as having had the "American way of profiting by European example without falling victim to European convention."3

Examples of Hassam's work can be found in most major public and private collections throughout the United States and abroad, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston; the Brooklyn Museum; the National Museum of American Art and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, both in Washington, D.C., and the Musée d'Orsay in France.

© The essay herein is the property of Spanierman Gallery, LLC and is copyrighted by Spanierman Gallery, LLC, and may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from Spanierman Gallery, LLC,  nor shown or communicated to anyone without due credit being given to Spanierman Gallery, LLC.

1  Donelson Hoopes, Childe Hassam (New York: Watson-Guptill, 1979), p. 15.
2  Albert Gallatin, "Childe Hassam: A Note," Collector and Art Critic 5 (January 1907): 101-104.
3  Royal Cortissoz quoted in Hoopes, p. 20.

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.


Childe Hassam is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Flag Painters
New York Armory Show of 1913
Impressionists Pre 1940
Old Lyme Colony Painters
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915
Paris Pre 1900
"The Ten"
Tonalism



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