Childe Hassam 1859 - 1935
- Childe Hassam
- The White Dory, Gloucester
- signed Childe Hassam and dated 1895, l.l.; also titled The White Dory, Gloucester, signed with the artist's monogrammed initials CH, and dated 1895 on the reverse prior to lining
- oil on canvas
- 26 by 21 in.
- (66.0 by 53.3 cm)
Charles Mitchell (acquired directly from the artist)
Mr. F.E. Keeler
By descent in the family
Vose Galleries, Boston, Massachusetts, 1966 (acquired from the above)
Acquired from the above, 1966
New York, National Academy of Design, 70th Annual Exhibition, March-April 1895
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 65th Annual Exhibition, December 1895-February 1896, no. 155, p. 24 (as Girl in Dory; The Girl in a White Dory)
Boston, Massachusetts, St. Botolph's Club, Exhibition of Paintings by Childe Hassam, January-February 1896, no. 1 (as The Girl in the White Dory)
Minneapolis, Minnesota, Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts, First Annual Art Exhibition, March-April 1900, no. 70
Richmond, Indiana, Richmond Art Association, The Fourth Annual Exhibition of the Richmond Art Association, Held at the Garfield Elementary School Building, June 1900, no. 87
New York, Jordan-Volpe Galleries, Childe Hassam: American Impressionist, May-July 1994, 93, illustrated in color p. 94
"The Academy of Design," New York Times, March 29, 1895, p. 5, col. 5
Alain Joyaux, Childe Hassam in Indiana, Muncie, Indiana, 1985, no. 69, p. 63
H. Barbara Weinberg, Childe Hassam: American Impressionist, New Haven and London, 2004, p. 359, illustrated in color
Judith Curtis, Rocky Mountain Art Colony: 1850-1950, Gloucester, Massachusetts, 2008, pp. 52-56, 85, 88, 90, 100, 122, 126, illustrated in color pp. 34, 54
When Childe Hassam exhibited The White Dory, Gloucester at the National Academy of Design in the spring of 1895, critics responded with enthusiasm: "Agreeable in composition, charmingly drawn and painted, Mr. Hassam has invested this canvas with a brilliancy and a realism of sunlight... Mr. Hassam has given ample evidence of his ability to do pretty much as he pleases with his material... This picture is one of the distinguished things in the exhibition" ("The Academy of Design," New York Times, March 29, 1895).
Hassam was at the height of his powers as an Impressionist in 1895, having just painted his masterwork, The Room of Flowers, the year before. Following the Impressionist technique of sketching initial compositions en-plein-air, Hassam likely started The White Dory during his 1894 visit to the area, and completed it in his studio during the winter months of 1895, finally exhibiting it at the National Academy the following spring. The water and distant horizon in The White Dory displays Hassam's impressionist staccato brushwork, with touches of brilliant highlights suggesting the effects of sun-dappled light. The central figure, most likely Hassam's wife Maud, is a remarkable evocation of feminine grace, and one of the most successful female subjects in the artist's oeuvre. Hassam delicately articulated the model's features, her rosy cheeks and carefully painted lips protected from the sun by her bright yellow boater. Hassam paid particular attention to the contours of her body, suggested underneath her striped Edwardian blouse and the folds of her skirt. In a powerful assertion of Impressionist bravado, Hassam fills nearly the entire lower register of the composition with a panoply of modulated whites, creams and yellows which flow in a sinuous wave to the pinched waist of the elegantly sensual figure. Small, energized brushstrokes with dashes of color create the impression of movement in the water shimmering in sunlight. Hassam used the topography of Gloucester to great advantage, posing the figure against the opposite side of its harbor, the high horizon line dotted with ships defining the composition, and drawing the eye to the beautiful woman demurely looking away from the viewer.
During his trips to Paris in the late 1880s, Hassam fully embraced Impressionist techniques, aesthetics, and subjects. He and Maud, who had recently become his wife, settled in Paris so Hassam could study at the Academie Julian. Though he worked under such influential instructors as Gustave Boulanger and Jules-Joseph Lefebvre, Hassam found the academic experience stifling. He wrote, "The Julian Academy is the personification of routine ... It is nonsense, it crushes all originality out of the growing men" (quoted in Ulrich W. Hiesinger, Childe Hassam: American Impressionist, p. 32). Instead, Hassam worked independently of the Academy, absorbing his most important aesthetic lessons on his own. His art soon evolved away from the dark tonalist character of his earlier Boston pictures, dramatically shifting towards the high keyed palette, bright light and broken brushwork that animate The White Dory.
Returning to America, Hassam routinely spent his summers away from his New York studio, often frequenting the small towns and harbors which dotted the New England coast from Connecticut to Maine. Hassam painted The White Dory during one of his summer sojourns to Gloucester, a fishing village and tourist destination about forty miles north of Boston. Though he had painted there intermittently since his days as a student, he went to Gloucester in late summer 1894 after visiting the Isles of Shoals on the coastal border of New Hampshire and Maine. His close friend and poet Celia Thaxter, who had hosted the informal summer colony that Hassam frequented on Appledore Island, died that August, prompting Hassam to leave the island.
Unlike the seasonal resort of the Isles of Shoals, Gloucester was a bustling commercial port with a year-round international fishing trade that filled the harbor with fleets of ships and boats. The picturesque harbor and light-filled atmosphere had inspired several generations of American artists before Hassam, and boasted an artistic heritage which encompassed both Fitz Henry Lane's luminist harbor views and Winslow Homer's exquisite watercolors. There was no specific neighborhood or hotel which visiting artists frequented, so each took up residence in various areas of the town. Hassam boarded at a hotel in East Gloucester, a mixed commercial and residential area a few miles away from the town center. From this eastern vantage, Hassam painted some of his characteristic views of the harbor, looking across the docks towards Freshwater Cove and neighboring inlets and shores.
Hassam continued to visit Gloucester during the summer months and when he returned in 1899, he completed a series of views of the town's harbor. His attention to detail and topographical accuracy is evident in Gloucester Harbor (Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida), in which he included recognizable structures such as the fish canneries on Rocky Neck, and the prominent chimney of the Marin Railways power plant. These details are largely absent in The White Dory, where the sitter occupies a position of central importance – only the small red accent of a distant American flag momentarily distracts our eye. Hassam would continue to paint Gloucester through the rest of his life, exhibiting his paintings locally, first in hotels, then at the Gallery-on-the-Moors, Cape Ann's first formal exhibition space, bringing the vibrancy and clarity of his Impressionist vision to this quintessentially American setting.