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America's Favorite Impressionist

By Frank Goss

Without a doubt, Childe Hassam is America's favorite Impressionist. One might argue Impressionism is the world's most loved art movement and that therefore, Hassam is amongst the most celebrated of all artists born on U.S. soil.

Table of Contents


Some of the world's greatest artists, like Van Gogh, spent a lifetime in pursuit of their art with little critical, social or financial recognition. Hassam was not one of them. His talent was recognized early. He was feted from his first exhibition early on, collected aggressively and universally recognized as one of America's most significant painters from early in his career right up to his death. As an artist, Frederick Childe Hassam (October 17, 1859 - August 27, 1935) was a premier American Impressionist.

He was born Frederick Childe Hassam. He was named "Childe" after the surname of a maternal uncle and the "Hassam" was a distortion of the family name of Horsham, ancestors by that name having come to Boston from Sussex, England. Early in his career he dropped the use of the name Frederick and became simply, Childe Hassam. Listed amongst his ancestors are Nathaniel Hawthorne, the novelist, Richard Morris Hunt, the architect, and William Morris Hunt, the painter.

Childe Hassam was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, on October 17, 1855. His father was a successful Boston businessman who was ruined financially in the great fire of 1872. Hassam left high school without graduating and ended up working for a Boston wood engraver. As an artist his formal studies were begun at the Boston Art Club (1878) and later continued at the Acad�mie Julian in Paris (1886-1889). He was greatly influenced by Louis Boulanger and Jules Joseph Lefebvre. He attended drawing classes at the Lowell Institute, a division of MIT, and was a member of the Boston Art Club. The early portion of his artistic career were devoted to illustrations and watercolors. 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, Massachusetts in 1892.

From this time forward, Hassam was committed to the life of a professional painter. Recognition came early in both the U.S. and abroad. In 1884 he married Kathleen Maud Doane. Two years later he set off for Paris to complete his artistic training at Academie Julian. In addition, it being the center of the art world at the time Paris was home to several of the most celebrated art schools in the world. Academie Julian and the Ecole des Beaux Arts were home to many other American artists. Both of these schools used figure drawing and painting as the primary training ground for acquisition of all artistic schools.

Hassam was extremely active in the social and technical areas of the artistic community. In 1890, he, and several others, founded the New York Water Color Club. He also joined the American Water Color Society and shortly thereafter joined the Players Club and the Society of American Artists. He went on to found other artistic societies and join other clubs and as a result the society of artists and collectors in New York, the art capital of the United States, regularly saw and purchased his work. The fruition of this entrepreneurial fervor came about in 1897 when he help establish the Ten American Painters, an exhibiting group that included many of the finest painters of the day: Frank W. Bensen, William Merritt Chase, Thomas Dewing, John Twachtman and J. Alden Weir.

The artist and his wife were tireless travelers. Between 1888 and ??? they visited Spain, Italy, England, and France. They traveled extensively in the U.S. and took regular holidays in East Hampton, Old Lyme, Greenwich and the Appledore Island off the coast of New Hampshire. This travel allowed the artist to have the constant reference of new landscape as well as permitting the interchange of idea and technique with fellow artists.


There is a lot of nonsense theory about why Childe Hassam is so popular. Some see him as a late arrival to the Impressionists banquet, some find him a blindly cheerful and, of necessity, shallow chronicler of his times, others portray him the party boy of artists societies, who thereby bought his way into exposure to collectors, a sort of charlatan of the salons. It seems a much more basic issue. He was a tremendously talented painter who found the world to his liking, and conversely the world found Childe Hassam to its liking. The bald optimism of his paintings is overridingly contagious. The public loves his work.

Warren Adelson, in his perceptive essay on the development of Hassams style refers to greater Boston at the time of Hassams youth as the Athens of America. Great artists of all types were encouraged and supported. The artists earliest training came in the form of an apprenticeship at the hands of George E. Johnson, the engraver. His first formal training would have been at the Lowell Institute and later at the Boston Art Club where he studied with Ignatz Gaugengigl. The work completed in the artists early years reflected the French Barbizon school in subject matter and style with weighty, dark tonal palettes. It is a far cry from the work that would make him a preeminent American Impressionist.

In 1883, pursuing additional insight, Hassam made his first trip to Europe visiting England, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy and Spain all the while working in watercolor. It is on this journey that the young artist must have had full exposure to the closing efforts of the pioneering work of the French Impressionists who would have their final exhibition in 1886. It was in late that year that the newly married artist returns to Paris to study at the Academie Julian. After several years of study Hassam left complaining that the Academie was too confining and left little room for originality. But for Hassam the dye had been cast. Much of his finest work relates directly to the work of the French Impressionists, despite Hassams statements to the contrary. These principal years of exposure left his work marked by bright colors, hurried, short brushstroke and an emphasis on the play of light that was common to the work of Monet, Degas and Caillebotte.

Through the remainder of his career he enjoyed perfecting the composition, framing, perspective and pictorial techniques shared by the leaders of the French movement. An examination of his later work will find relationships to Post-Impressionism, Symbolism and the modern movements developing in the early 20th century, but his finest work is plainly associated with exposures to the Impressionists work which he viewed in his years of study in Paris.


  • 1959Born October 17th in Dorrchester, MA
  • 1878 - 1881 Apprentices to wood engraver George Johnson, Boston
  • 1881 Studies Drawing and Anatomy at Lowell Institute, Boston
  • 1882 Joins Group Exhibit with Boston Art Club-1st Public Exhibition
  • 1882 William & Everett Gallery, Boston-1st Solo Exhibition
  • 1883 Travels to Europe with Edmund Henry garret, fellow artist
  • 1884 Marries Katleen Maud Doane, known as Maud
  • 1886 Returns to Paris with Maud, studies at Academie Julian
  • 1889 Sails with Maud to New York where he takes studio
  • 1890 Finds critical and financial success both side of the Atlantic
  • 1893 Receives prizes in Painting & Watercolor-Columbian Expo.
  • 1897 Visits Naples, Florence, Paris, London
  • 1898 Works with others to establish The Ten
  • 1902 Elected Member of the National Academy of Design
  • 1903 Visits Old Lyme and meets Florence Griswold
  • 1904 Two Gold Medals (oils & pastels) Louisiana Purchase Expo
  • 1909 Metropolitan acquires 1st Hassam painting
  • 1910 Returns to Paris with Maud to London, Netherlands, Spain
  • 1913 Exhibits at famous Armory Show with thirteen works
  • 1914 Goes west to San Francisco for Pan Pacific International Expo.
  • 1915 Commences his famous Flag Series
  • 1919 Corcoran hosts the last exhbition of The Ten
  • 1920 Purchases home at Willow Bend, where he will till his death
  • 1927 Travels west via New Orleans, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara
  • 1931 Metropolitan makes silent film for 1-reel filem on Hassam
  • 1934 Takes ill in famous chill of 34
  • 1935 Dies August 27th at Willow Bend

    8" x 11"
    Watercolor on paper
    Exhibited in "American Perspectives: An Exhibition of Works on Paper" at Sullivan Goss, 2003 (Private Collection)

    This watercolor of Venice is from Mr. Hassam's first trip to Europe. Following that trip, he exhibited 67 watercolors at Williams & Everett of Boston. He later made a project of painting another island, Appledore, which he painted in all aspects for over twenty years.


  • Akron Art Museum, Akron, OH
  • American Academy of Arts & Letters, NY
  • Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, TX
  • Corcoran Gallery, Washington, DC
  • Crocker Museum, Sacramento, CA
  • High Museum, Atlanta, GA
  • Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, IN
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
  • Museum of Fine Art, Boston, MA
  • National Academy of Design Museum, New York, NY
  • National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
  • vOakland Museum of California, Oakland, CA
  • Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA
  • Philadelphia Sketch Club, Philadelphia, PA
  • Reading Public Museum, Reading, PA
  • St. Louis Museum of Art, St. Louis, MO
  • San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, CA
  • Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA
  • Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA
  • Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC
  • University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, MI
  • The White House, Washington, D.C.
  • Wadsworth Atheneun Museum of Art, Hartford, CT
  • Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY

  • 1889 Bronze, Paris Expostion Worlds Fair
  • 1892 Gold, Munich International Art Expo.
  • 1892 Gold, Philadelphia Art Club
  • 1893 Medal, Chicago Exposition
  • 1893 Gold, Cleveland Art Association
  • 1895 Webb Price, Society of American Artists
  • 1896 Medal, Boston Art Club
  • 1898 Medal, Carnegie Institute
  • 1899 Gold, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
  • 1900 Silver, Paris Salon
  • 1904 Gold, Buffalo
  • 1904 Gold, St Louis Exposition
  • 1905 Gold, Carnegie Institute
  • 1905 Clarke Prize & Gold, National Academy
  • 1906 Prize, Carnegie Institute
  • 1906 Carnegie Prize, Society of American Artists
  • 1906 Lippincott Prize, PAFA
  • 1910 Sesan Gold Medal, PAFA
  • 1912 Evans Prize, American Water Color Society
  • 1915 Medal, Philadelphia Art Club
  • 1919 Hudnut Prize, American Watercolor Club
  • 1924 Gold, Philadelphia Art Club
  • 1926 1st Altman Prize, National Academy
  • 1931 Gold, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
  • 1931 Pijur Prize, Brooklyn Society of Etchers
  • 1934 Gold, N.Y. Art Dealers Association
  • 1935 Saltus Gold, National Academy
  • 1935 Elliott Memorial Prize, Newport Art Club

    Major Solo-Exhibitions

  • 1900 MacBeth Gallery, New York, NY
  • 1905, 1906, 1911, 1912, 1914 Montross Gallery
  • 1907 Columbia University, New York, NY
  • 1910, 1913 OBriens Gallery, Chicago, IL
  • 1916 Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA
  • 1916 Roulliers Gallery, Chicago, IL
  • 1917 Dayton Gallery, WA
  • 1918, 1932 Durand-Ruel Gallery, New York, NY
  • 1919, 1943, 1947, 1953, 1958 Milch Gallery
  • 1920 College of the City of NY, New York, NY
  • 1923, 1966 Corcoran Gallery, Washington, DC
  • 1923 Keppel Gallery, New York, NY
  • 1925 MacBeth Gallery, New York, NY
  • 1928 Harlow & Co, New York, NY
  • 1928 Museum of Fine Art, Syracuse, NY
  • 1929 Brooks Memorial Art Gallery, Memphis, TN
  • 1936 Montclair, Museum, Montclair, NJ
  • 1940 Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY

    1. 1. Adams, Adeline. Childe Hassam. New York: American Academy of Arts and Letters, 1938.
    2. 2. Adelson, Warren, et al. Childe Hassam, Impressionist. Abbeville Press, 1999.
    3. 3. Bullock, Margaret E. Childe Hassam: Impressionist in the West. Portland: Portland Art Museum, 2005.
    4. 4. Donelson, Hoopes. Childe Hassam. New York, Watsun-Guptil, 1979.
    5. 5. Fielding, Mantle. Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptures & Engravers. Green Frams, Ct: Modern Books and Crafts, 1974.
    6. 6. Fort, Ilene. Flag Paintings of Childe Hassam. Los Angeles County Museum of Art., 1988.
    7. 7. Gerdts, William. Impressionist New York. New York: Artabras/Abbeville Press, 1994.
    8. 8. Hiesinger, Ulrich. W. Childe Hassam, American Impressionit. Prestel, 1999.
    9. 9. Hughs, Edan Milton. Artists in California. Third ed. Sacramento, Calif.: Crocker Art Museum, 2002.
    10. 10. Park Curry, David. Childe Hassam, An Island Garden Revisited. New Haven, Yale, 2005.
    11. 11. Weinberg, H. Barbara, et al. Childe Hassam, American Impressionist. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004.
    12. 12. This work first presented on the web partially completed June 16, 2006 at 9pm

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