American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, 1935 (by bequest of the artist)
Milch Galleries, New York, 1950
Mrs. J.H. Philbin, New York, 1950 (acquired from the above)
A.M. Adler Fine Arts, New York, 1974
Acquired from the above, 1974
(possibly) Cincinnati, Ohio, Cincinnati Art Museum, Exhibition of American Paintings, 1916, no. 77 (as The Village of Pont-Aven, Brittany)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; Fort Worth, Texas, Amon Carter Museum; Phoenix, Arizona, Phoenix Art Museum; Washington, D.C., National Museum of American Art, Americans in Brittany and Normandy, 1860-1910, September 1982-August 1983, no. 58, illustrated p. 173 (as Pont-Aven)
In the early 1890s, Paul Gauguin, Emile Bernard and Paul Serusier lived and worked in Pont-Aven. Though it had been an artist's colony since the 1850s, the small Breton town flourished upon the arrival of the artists and their followers, eventually earning the moniker "École Pont-Aven." Their distinctive brand of Post-Impressionism encouraged a growing community of expatriate American artists. At the end of 1896, nine years after his pivotal 1887 trip to Paris, Hassam and his wife embarked on a year long tour of Europe. Beginning in Rome, the couple made their way through Italy, reaching Pont-Aven in the summer. Though brief, Hassam's stay in Pont-Aven stimulated a prolific period of artistic output. Hassam painted more than a dozen canvases, six of which he sent to Paris for exhibition in the Salon Nationale des Beaux Arts of 1898.
The Pont Aven series, which depicts the local village and its residents, mark both a thematic and stylistic shift. Warren Adelson writes, "In this Breton town, held in special esteem for its rural values and old ways, he painted old-fashioned peasants--the quaint costumes giving a folkloric character to his figure paintings. The roof views of the old city had a similarly romantic nostalgia that was the opposite of modern life in the city. These canvases are telling for two reasons. They are a clear indication of his growing nostalgia for earlier times. And stylistically, they have an abstract quality and a sense of pattern that were new to him. In the first decade of the twentieth century, Hassam's style would frequently shift from his familiar Realist-Impressionist strategy to the Pointillist-Divisionist techniques of the neo-Impressionists and to the other new waves of influence in France, particularly Nabi painting, with its love of pattern and design" (Childe Hassam: Impressionist, 1999, p. 47).
Rooftops, Pont-Aven portrays the town from an elevated vantage point, a perspective favored by French Impressionists but only occasionally employed by Hassam. The view afforded from above includes a series of slate roofs accented with red chimneys, which wind into the distant hills in dynamic, angular configurations. The neo-Impressionist influence is manifested in the staccato brushstrokes, which energize the tapestry-like surface. Ulrich Hiesinger writes that Hassam's yearlong trip abroad also "reinforced his interest in panoramic landscape and came to renew his appreciation of historical architecture. The portrayal of old buildings for their own sake was something Hassam had not undertaken since his student days, yet, following his year abroad, his antiquarian interest in American historical landmarks increased, possibly reawakened by his experience of the venerable monuments of Europe's past" (Childe Hassam, 1994, p. 115).
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