Childe Hassam, 1859-1935
By Riley Wilber
Born to a hardware merchant in Dorchester, Massachusetts on October 17th, 1859, Childe Hassam became one of the greatest practitioners of American Impressionism. Described by the MET as perhaps the “most devoted, prolific, and successful” painter of this genre for his urban and coastal scenes. Throughout his career he produced over 3,000 works of art from watercolors to lithographs. These works allowed him to achieve commercial success and triumph American Impressionism with fellow artists such as Mary Cassatt.
The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston holds some of his great works of art including At Dusk (Boston Common at Twilight) (1885-86) and Charles River and Beacon Hill (c. 1892) among others. While these two paintings capture the city of Boston in the late nineteenth century, they are also timeless in their representations. In reference to At Dusk, Erica Hirshler, an established curator at the MFA, states, ‘you know that place, most of us have been to that place. It’s very familiar, but at the same time you’re transported back to 140 years ago. It’s familiar and different at the same time.’ Set on Tremont Street, right on the Commons, this is indeed a well-known scene for anyone acquainted with Bean town. Similarly in Charles River and Beacon Hill Hassam’s portrayal of the Boston State House with its famous golden dome is distinct, despite the extreme compositional structures he employs, such as the deep recession of space and unoccupied foreground, taken from the French impressionist tradition. The nostalgia in these works paired with Hassam’s impressionistic technique has given him a continued popularity not only within the Boston community, but also throughout the United States. Indeed, he has gone down to posterity for painting his own time and place.
“ At Dusk (Boston Common at Twilight”, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, <http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/at-dusk-boston-common-at-twilight-32415> [August 28, 2017].
“Charles River and Beacon Hill”, <http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/charles-river-and-beacon-hill-34273> [August 28, 2017].
“Childe Hassam, American Impressionist”, June 10, 2004, <http://www.tfaoi.com/aa/4aa/4aa209.htm> [August 29, 2017].
“Childe Hassam (1859-1935)”, The Met, <http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/hass/hd_hass.htm> [August 27, 2017].
Hartnett, Kevin, “Childe Hassam’s ‘ At Dusk (Boston Common at Twilight”, The Boston Globe, <https://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2015/07/31/the-enduring-appeal-behind-iconic-boston-painting/zn0jtK5bVi6DtILB2yIDuJ/story.html> [August 27, 2017].
“MFA Collection Books: Child Hassam At Dusk: Boston Common at Twilight”, <http://www.mfa.org/collections/publications/childe-hassam> [August 29, 2017].