Arts Everyday Living: Impressionist Childe Hassam–His Portrait of a Mystery Woman by the Sea

Childe Hassam, The South Ledges, Appledore, 1913, oil on canvas, 34 1/4 in. x 36 1/8 in., Gift of John Gellatly, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.

Title: The South Ledges, Appledore

Artist: Childe Hassam (1859-1935)

In The South Ledges, Appledore, we are transported to the shore off New England and a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Our eye travels for miles up the space of the painting, from the multi-colored rocks of the lower foreground, across the broad expanse of the blue-green sea, to the distant horizon line at the very edge of the canvas. Yet, we are not alone; a woman stylishly dressed in a flowing dress joins us in our view. A figure from another time, before the skimpier apparel of bathing suits, she steadies with a lady-like gloved hand, her wide brimmed hat against the blowing wind. Never identified, she remains a mystery to posterity.

The artist, Childe Hassam, often spent summers on the island of Appledore, just off the New Hampshire coast. Like American Impressionist William Merritt Chase, Hassam sought inspiration mainly in the East and Europe, whether the bustling cities of New York and Paris, or the gentle countryside of New England and France. Only later in his career did Hassam venture into the Western states.






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