June 6, 2022 14:00 EST

American Art and Pennsylvania Impressionists

 
Lot 60
 

60

Childe Hassam (American, 1859–1935)
Mrs. Hassam in a Garden, Villiers-le-Bel 

Signed, located and dated 'Childe Hassam/Paris 1889' upper left, oil on canvas
36 1/8 x 51 in. (91.8 x 129.6cm)

Provenance

The Artist.
John Nicholson Galleries, New York, New York.
Collection of Mr. John Fox, Boston, Massachusetts (until 1960).
Babcock Galleries, New York, New York (until 1965).
Collection of John J. Wilson, Brookline and Marblehead, Massachusetts (until circa 1968).
Hirschl & Adler, New York, New York (between 1968-1969).
Acquired directly from the above.
Collection, then Trust, of Mrs. Norman B. Pauline Woolworth.
Collection of Mr. Martin Stogniew, Pennsylvania.
Avery Galleries, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.
Acquired directly from the above.
Private Collection, Philadelphia Main Line, Pennsylvania.

Estimated at $2,000,000 - $3,000,000


 

Signed, located and dated 'Childe Hassam/Paris 1889' upper left, oil on canvas
36 1/8 x 51 in. (91.8 x 129.6cm)

Provenance

The Artist.
John Nicholson Galleries, New York, New York.
Collection of Mr. John Fox, Boston, Massachusetts (until 1960).
Babcock Galleries, New York, New York (until 1965).
Collection of John J. Wilson, Brookline and Marblehead, Massachusetts (until circa 1968).
Hirschl & Adler, New York, New York (between 1968-1969).
Acquired directly from the above.
Collection, then Trust, of Mrs. Norman B. Pauline Woolworth.
Collection of Mr. Martin Stogniew, Pennsylvania.
Avery Galleries, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.
Acquired directly from the above.
Private Collection, Philadelphia Main Line, Pennsylvania.

Exhibited

"Childe Hassam," Babcock Galleries, New York, New York, 1960, no. 4 (illustrated in the accompanying exhibition catalogue).
"American Traditionalist Painters: 1865-1915," American Federation of the Arts, New York, New York, 1962-1963.
"Childe Hassam: A Retrospective Exhibition," April-December, 1965, no; 12; and The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts; and Currier Gallery of Art, Manchester, New Hampshire; and Gallery of Modern Art, New York, New York (traveling exhibition).
"The American Painting Collection of Mrs. Norman B. Woolworth," Coe Kerr Gallery, New York, New York, November 1979, no. 39.
"The American Impressionists," Adelson Galleries, New York, New York, November 15–December 21, 1996, no. 22.
"100 Years of American Art," Palm Springs Desert Museum, Palm Springs, California, January-March, 1979.
"Childe Hassam: An American Impressionist," Adelson Galleries, New York, New York, November 2–December 15, 1999; and Meredith Long & Co., Houston, Texas, January 11–February 5, 2000, no. 15.
"The Artist's Garden: American Impressionism and the Garden Movement, 1887-1920," Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, February 13–May 24, 2015; Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia, June 16–September 6, 2015; also Reynolda House Museum of American Art, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, October 1, 2015–January 3, 2016; also The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, California, January 23–May 9, 2016; and finally Florence Griswold Museum, Old Lyme, Connecticut, June 3–September 18, 2016 (traveling exhibition).

Literature

Donelson F. Hoopes, Childe Hassam, Watson-Guptill Publications, New York, 1979, pp. 32, 33, plate 6 (illustrated as Mrs. Hassam in their Garden).
Norma Broude, World Impressionism: The International Movement, 1860–1920, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, 1990, pp. 57, 58, plate 60 (illustrated as Mrs. Hassam in Her Garden).
Warren Adelson, Jay E. Cantor and William H. Gerdts, Childe Hassam: Impressionist, Abbeville Press, New York and London, 1999, pp. 26, figs. 23 (detail), 27, 170, 172 (illustrated as The Artist's Wife in a Garden, Villiers-Le-Bel).
Helene Barbara Weinberg, et al, Childe Hassam: American Impressionist, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (in association with Yale University Press, New Haven), 2004, pp. 309, 313, fn. 15 (illustrated as The Artist's Wife in a Garden, Villiers-Le-Bel).
Anna O'Marley, The Artist's Garden: American Impressionism and the Garden Movement, 1887-1920, Pennsylvania Acedemy of the Fine Arts and University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 2015, p. 131, plate 3 (illustrated as The Artist's Wife in a Garden, Villiers-Le-Bel).

Note

This present work will be included in Stuart P. Feld’s and Kathleen M. Burnside’s forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné of the Artist’s work. We wish to thank Ms. Burnside for her kind assistance in cataloguing the painting.

In the fall of 1886, Childe Hassam set sail for France with his wife, Maud for what would become a three-year journey. Although Hassam was artistically more mature than most of his American peers en route to Europe at the same time, training in the French capital was an inevitable step for any ambitious painter, and Hassam having decided to commit to oil painting, therefore enrolled at the Académie Julian to perfect his technique. At that time, he was already considered a leading force of American Impressionism, and had earned a solid reputation through his atmospheric renditions of the city of Boston, as well as his highly successful illustrations.

While in Paris, Hassam depicted a variety of modern subjects, mostly inspired by the encounters he would make on the bustling streets of the city. As such, female flower vendors, marketplaces, carriage rides, and fancy Grand Prix reunions became some of the most famous themes he captured. During this time, Hassam’s style evolved. It became resolutely Impressionist, relying on short, quick dappled brushwork, a brighter palette, and a keen attention to light. This newfound technique reached its peak through a series of nearly two dozen works produced between 1886 and 1889, which feature women posed in either public parks or private gardens, tucked among lush plants and flowers shown either sewing, reading or daydreaming.

Mrs. Childe Hassam in a Garden, Villiers-le-Bel is among the finest impressionist works executed during this pivotal moment of Hassam’s career. Painted in 1889, it is the last and most ambitious canvas the artist worked on before definitively returning to the United States in the fall. It offers an intimate view of the artist’s wife seated in profile (a pose Hassam favored) in a garden filled with blooming flowers. Dressed in a simple white gown, which emphasizes the privacy of the moment, she stays tranquil, a soft smile on her face, having just abandoned her hat, and knitting device on the bench in front of her. The leftover cup of hot chocolate indicates the session must have happened in the morning, right after breakfast. The scene takes place in the terraced garden of Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Blumenthal, a German couple whom the artist and his wife befriended during their time in France, and whom they would often visit in their villa in Villiers-le-Bel - a quaint small town just 10 miles northeast of Paris, in the Val d’Oise region. Hassam was particularly fond of the Blumenthal garden, which greatly compensated his missing of the Isle of Shoals. In 1888, he wrote to a friend: “We will…go to Villiers-le-Bel and I shall paint in a charming old French garden."

The Blumenthals were known for their extremely well-tended French style garden. The garden itself was paved and walled. It stretched across several levels of terraces and raised flowerbeds which displayed a variety of plants (potted for the most part) not native to northern Europe such as oleanders, rhododendrons, or geraniums – Hassam’s signature flower, which he would often place near his subjects, such as in the present work. There is in fact a sublte parallel between Mrs. Hassam and the flower, the bright red of her lips echoing the shade of the petals behind her. In doing so, Hassam continues a century-long tradition of associating loved female figures with beautiful flowers, thus inviting us to marvel at his wife as the garden’s most beautiful ornament, just like visitors would admire each of the Bluementhal’s flowers as a unique precious object.

Mrs. Childe Hassam in a Garden, Villiers-le-Bel concludes a series of joyful works Hassam set in the Blumenthal garden, which - according to Donelson Hoopes - “partake more of the Impressionist penchant for nature than the bulk of [Hassam’s] oeuvre." It is certainly one of the most illustrious works of the series, and among the largest Hassam ever produced during his French sojourn. It closely relates to a slightly earlier canvas known as After Breakfast (often alternatively exhibited as After Lunch), which Hassam showed in Munich in 1888, in Paris the following year, as well as in several exhibitions across America in the 1890s. While the provenance of our work is quite firm from the mid-20th century, its earlier history is still to be established. Both its scale (it is the largest of the artist’s “women in garden” series) and subject matter however indicate that Hassam likely conceived it as a major exhibition piece, one which would define and illustrate his style after three years spent in France.

Mrs. Hassam in a Garden relies on a subtle asymmetry, the nominal subject of the painting being slightly offset to the left, in the shadows, thus letting our eye wander in the largely empty foreground, up to the very far back, where the garden and the bright surrounding flowers take all the light. While it adds a certain mystery to the scene and even contributes to Hassam’s vision of the female mystique, it was also a compositional strategy that had already proven successful for the artist, and which can recall some of the earlier works by Edgar Degas. The large-scale canvas is also a clear testament to Hassam's reverence towards French Impressionists Claude Monet, Fréderic Bazille and Gustave Caillebotte, who all famously depicted their family members outdoors (see Monet’s Luncheon, or The Artist’s House in Argenteuil, for example). The expert use of color, relying on a subtle contrast between the subdued, earthy tones in the foreground and background and the bright touches of yellow, white, pink, red and blue dispersed throughout the composition, adds a level of luminosity (almost transparency) that Hassam had never dared to approach before, and which enables him to perfectly capture the transient nature of light. The fluid brushwork, a mix of broad swaths of paint and short dabs of pigments, also lends a timeless, ethereal quality to the scene. As such, Mrs. Hassam may come off as a magical apparition in an enchanted garden, a theory which her mannequin-like pose seems to channel at the same time as it is highly reminiscent of the frieze-like effect implemented by George Seurat in Un Dimanche Après-Midi sur l’Ile de la Grande Jatte, which was the talk of all Paris then, and which Hassam studied at length.

While in Paris and before he returned to his homeland, Hassam exhibited several of his Parisian creations at Noyes, Cobb and Co. in Boston in March 1889. Although the present painting was not included in the show, the many favorable reviews the artist received may very well apply to Mrs. Hassam in a Garden, a painting “full of gayety and brightness, [which] has a truly Parisian savor" which leads the commentator to conclude: "Since he left Boston [Hassam] has made a very noticeable gain, especially in color, and he has never painted so well as now." With this work, Hassam proved how transformative his Parisian journey was on his art, allowing his palette to lighten and to fully embrace Impressionism, thus paving his way to more success overseas.

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Frederick Childe Hassam

Childe Hassam