“America’s Favorite Impressionist,” Childe Hassam is celebrated as one of the most successful painters in America at the turn of the twentieth century. Born in Dorchester (now part of Boston), Massachusetts, in 1855, Hassam’s talent was recognized from an early age. He began his formal art studies with drawing classes at the Lowell Institute, a division of MIT, and at the Boston Art Club, where he took painting classes. By 1882, at the age of 23, Hassam was exhibiting publicly and had his first solo exhibition of watercolors at the Williams and Everett Gallery in Boston.
A trip to Paris the following year proved pivotal in the development of Hassam’s style. He traveled throughout Europe studying the Old Masters and continued to paint with watercolors, at this point in time in the French Barbizon subject matter and style. He commenced a three year course of study at the Académie Julian in Paris, a city in the heyday of the Impressionist movement. Hassam was profoundly influenced by these techniques and particularly by Louis Boulanger and Jules Joseph Lefebvre. He returned from Europe with a lightened palette and a freer brush stroke, embracing the Impressionistic style more wholeheartedly than his American contemporaries but maintaining his favor of form and contour.
Though Hassam never openly recognized his indebtedness to Impressionism (insisting instead that he found inspiration in artists such as J.M.W. Turner), his subject matter became increasingly similar to those of the Impressionists, and his experiment with the effects of light and his brilliant handling of color made it clear that his style had changed. His talent was acknowledged both in the U.S. and abroad. He showed four paintings at the Exposition Universale of 1889 in Paris, winning a bronze medal.
Returning to America in 1889, Hassam and his new wife, Kathleen Doan, settled in New York City, the epicenter of the art market, full of dealers and collectors. There he painted urban scenes of the City, Boston, and Paris, with originality, capturing the excitement of the modern city and chronicling the world around him. He frequently traveled the New England coast, searching for new inspiration in the landscapes and interacting with fellow artists. He was highly involved in the artistic community, helping to found both the New York Watercolor Club and the Ten American Painters exhibition group. He also joined the American Watercolor Society and the Society of American Artists.
Universally recognized as one of America’s most significant painters, Hassam’s highly prolific career produced more than 2,000 oils, watercolors, pastels and illustrations, along with his etchings. His artwork can be found in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum in New York, as well as in many other important institutions worldwide.