According to Ulrich Hiesinger, "The foundation of Hassam's art was his skill in manipulating color and light, in accordance with his belief that the primary appeal of painting was emotional rather than intellectual. Like other American Impressionist painters, he initially employed techniques of rendering light as a form of realism, but eventually pursued their expressive potential in the direction of abstraction... He saw nature as still life and, even in his early works, often stressed the abstract beauty of surfaces, whether revealed in rain-slicked pavements, the rocks of a craggy shore, or an ice covered river. From his initial attempts at realistic portrayal, he moved steadily toward a greater analysis of his subject's formal, decorative qualities, so that at times the merging of textures and colors in his canvases comes close to pure abstraction" (Ibid, p. 9). Stone Bridge, Old Lyme, painted in 1904, elegantly illustrates Hassam's technique at the turn of the century in which he favored impressionistic brushstrokes of subtle tonal variations over perspective and line. The resulting effect is that the "artist's mosaic like patterning produces not the atmospheric quality of a soft, continuous dissolve, but a fracturing of space through the alternation of light and shade. In subsequent works, Hassam oscillated between these alternatives of illusion and decoration, occasionally abandoning space for strong, tapestry like effects" (Ibid, p. 15). The artist's treatment of the surface became paramount as he enforced the materiality of the paint, creating a decorative, almost tactile surface that simultaneously emphasized the flatness of the canvas and rendered atmospheric effects.
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