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Childe Hassam

American Painter

Childe Hassam Photo

Born: October 17, 1859 - Dorchester, Massachusetts

Died: August 27, 1935 - East Hampton, Long Island, New York

"The portrait of a city, you see, is in a way like the portrait of a person... The spirt, that's what counts, and one should strive to portray the soul of a city with the same care as the soul of a sitter."

Childe Hassam Signature

Summary of Childe Hassam

Childe "Muley" Hassam enjoyed the mystery surrounding his moniker. Playing off the confusion from his surname as to whether he was of Arabic descent, Hassam adopted "Muley," a corruption of the Arabic word for "master," in reference to a 15th-century Moorish ruler who appears in Washington Irving's writings. The nickname is fitting, since Hassam's stature as one of the giants of American Impressionism has remained unchallenged since his death. Influenced greatly by French painters of the 1870s and 1880s, Hassam turned his art into an industry that mirrored the rapid industrialization of America at the turn of the 20th century. In hundreds of works, he strove to depict both the frenzied pace of city life as well as the unspoiled expanses of nature that provided a respite from the urbanization, propagating a certain pride in the nation's past as well as present.

Key Ideas

Hassam's work, like that of the French Impressionists, is intimately concerned with the interaction of light, weather, and surface, especially as they change with the movement of elements within the scene, and often in concert with the frenzied pace of modern urban life. But unlike the French, Hassam avoids uncomfortable political issues in favor of an optimistic view of American industriousness and rural charm.
Hassam treated his art much like a business, aggressively marketing himself and churning out canvases and works on paper by the carload, and gathering associations of artists around him to increase his notoriety. His efforts paid off, as he built a sizeable reputation and fortune over a career spanning more than fifty years.
While Hassam helped create a strand of Impressionism that was distinctly American, he remained connected with the European Art of the 1870s and '80s for the bulk of his career, and frequently maintained ties to foreign lands through his travels; the culmination of his patriotic internationalism is his series of flag paintings supporting the allied cause during World War I.
Hassam's devotion to Impressionism was impressive, as he steadfastly refused to adapt to the innovations in modern art coming from Europe starting in the 1910s, instead ridiculing non-representational abstraction in painting even after its acceptance as cutting-edge modernism by American critics in the interwar era.
Childe Hassam Photo

Frederick Childe Hassam's family had deep New England roots. His father was a cutlery salesman based in Boston whose ancestors arrived in America from England in the 17th century with a name that began as Horsham. This name went through a number of spelling changes before becoming Hassam, which would result in questions regarding the future artist's origin with some believing, much to Hassam's amusement, that he was Arabian.

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