Childe Hassam 1859-1935
- Childe Hassam
- A Paris Nocturne
- signed Childe Hassam, l.l.
- oil on canvas
Mr. Lyman G. Bloomingdale, New York (sold: American Art Association, New York, 1928, lot 55)
Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York
Richard Manoogian, Detroit, Michigan (acquired from the above), 1981
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1996
Childe Hassam’s Paris scenes are among the earliest impressionist images of urban life painted by an American artist. Hassam first traveled to Paris in 1886 to formally train at the prestigious Acadèmie Julian with the hopes of “refining his talent in the larger crucible of contemporary art” (Donaldson F. Hoopes, Childe Hassam, New York, 1982, p. 13). Once in Paris, however, Hassam found himself increasingly attracted to the most radical element in the French artistic community-the Impressionists- rather than the more traditional contingent of academic painters. Hassam was particularly drawn towards the cityscapes of artists such as Claude Monet and Gustave Caillebotte and to the bustling city life their paintings recorded.
By the spring of 1888, Hassam abandoned the Acadèmie altogether, famously stating, “The Julian academy is the personification of routine. It is nonsense. It crushes all originality out of the growing men” (Ulrich W. Hiesinger, Childe Hassam: American Impressionist, New York, p. 32). Instead, the museums, galleries and exhibitions in the city exposed Hassam to a rich variety of artistic styles and “Hassam’s greatest amusement was to wander the streets of Paris in search of motifs for his paintings” (Childe Hassam: American Impressionist, p. 42). The urban landscape as subject matter was not new to Hassam and much of his artistic output prior to his departure from Boston consisted of scenes along Columbus Avenue, which was modeled after the Parisian boulevards designed by Baron Haussmann. Hassam continued to paint the large boulevards in Paris to great effect but his later pictures from this sojourn abroad included more intimate scenes of city life. Ulrich Hiesinger writes, “Often his attention was caught by the everyday scenes which unfolded around him at each street corner or at the newspaper kiosks and bookstalls on the quais. One of his favorite haunts was just a step beyond his door in the winding, steep streets of Montmartre a quarter peopled with shopkeepers and artisans…Hassam roamed purposefully, recording the shop fronts with their colorful displays” (Childe Hassam: American Impressionist, p. 44)
As Hassam found renewed inspiration in the quartiers of Paris, he also transitioned from his earlier, more traditional approach of the tonal Boston pictures to a fully realized Impressionist style. A Paris Nocturne, painted circa 1889, celebrates the vibrancy of Paris at night and is evocative of his newfound freedom of expression. Hassam’s rapid and flickering brushstrokes suggest the dynamic activity of the boulevard as fashionably dressed men and women stroll beneath a dazzling array of street lamps. Light reflects in the glowing windows of the kiosk windows and glistening pavement, each surface enlivened with accents of pink and yellow pigment. A finely drawn figure of an elegant woman, dressed in lush shades of black, anchors the lively and radiant composition. H. Barbara Weinberg writes, “Hassam’s Parisian works suggest that he was much more inclined than were most of his contemporaries to interpret in a personal and vital way the styles of the modern French painters—the artists of the juste-milieu, Impressionists, and Neoimpressionists—and to celebrate urban life. He often brightened his palette, loosened his brushwork, and showed the effects of brilliant sunlight in oils and watercolors that record the spectacle of Paris” (Childe Hassam: American Impressionist, New York, 2004, p. 60).