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Monday at the Art Museum
By the LIght of the Moon: Through an Impressionist’s Eyes
During recent weeks, I’ve been focusing on what are designated as “masterpieces,” such as Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks and John Singer Sargent’s Madame X. Sargent’s contemporary American Impressionist Childe Hassam (1859-1935)* may not have created a single work currently ranked as an icon of Western art, but his The Avenue in the Rain now hangs across from President Obama’s desk in the Oval Office (see: end of blog). He was a highly prolific and versatile master, producing some 3,000 paintings, pastels, watercolors, and etchings, both in the urban centers of New York and Paris as well as scenic artists’ colonies primarily located in his native New England.
I’ve decided to feature a Hassam mini-exhibition, taking us through the different times of the day with a special emphasis on the moonlit hours, Hassam loved to travel, and we’ll be following his itinerary, commencing with the sun drenched Church Procession, Spanish Steps, done on his first trip abroad during the summer of 1883.
The 24 year old Hassam soon sailed back to his home city of Boston, perhaps already planning a future visit to Europe. He had to wait 3 years, in the meantime working as an illustrator; in 1884, he married Kathleen Maude Doane. Ultimately, the two of them embarked together for Paris in the fall of 1886, so he could fulfill his goal of being a professional artist.
During his initial months in the French capital, Hassam painted Along the Seine, Winter, a visual poem of the softly colored tones of dusk after a snowfall.
In contrast, Paris Nocturne, done in a warmer season, is illuminated by the power of gaslight, enhancing the black attire of the busy shoppers.
Upon his return to the United States in 1889, New York City would become Hassam’s main residence until his death in 1935. He often strolled the streets of the growing metropolis, encountering other pedestrians at major sites such as Washington Arch, Spring, enveloped in the lavender tinged atmosphere of the awakening season.
Hassam also concentrated on interiors executed in his high rise studio. Can you see the sihouette of the skyscraper behind the curtain, one of the many modern structures multiplying across New York in the early twentieth century? Except in The Breakfast Room, Winter Morning, its presence is secondary to the rosy sunlit glow of the enclosed space.
Yet, Hassam regularly escaped from the city’s congestion to the fields and meadows of Connecticut or other nearby states, where he could breathe the cooling air of an autumnal September Moonrise.
Or listen to the sounds of the countryside in Moonlight, the Old House, as he contemplated the radiance of the lunar night.
But it was at the ocean, especially on the Isle of Shoals, that he studied and interpreted the skies, from the dramatic multi-colored spectrum of Sunset at Sea,
to the pastel dream of Moonrise at Sunset,
to Moonlight Scene, when earth’s lone satellite is at its height, penetrating the the rocky waters at a distance of more than 200,000 miles away in outer space.
To view, Hassam’s painting in the Oval Office, click,
This blog is based on the following resources: Childe Hassam, American Impressionist by Ulrich W. Hiesinger, published by Prestel, New York, 1994 and Childe Hassam by Donelson F. Hoopes, Watson-Guptill Publications, New York, 1988.
The above images are used solely for educational purposes.