• Important American Paintings,  auction at Christies

    Sale 2225

    Important American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture

    2 December 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 44

    Childe Hassam (1859-1935)

    Sixth Avenue El--Nocturne (The El, New York)

    Price Realised  


    Childe Hassam (1859-1935)
    Sixth Avenue El--Nocturne (The El, New York)
    signed and dated 'Childe Hassam. 1894.' (lower right)
    oil on canvas
    18 x 14 in. (45.7 x 35.6 cm.)

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    In 1889, Childe Hassam returned from three years in Paris and moved to New York that winter, recognizing the prominence of the city in American cultural and artistic life. The artist first settled into a studio at 95 Fifth Avenue at Seventeenth Street where, as in Paris, he was quickly enthralled by the vitality and cosmopolitan airs of the city. Hassam's passion for capturing the urbanscapes that surrounded him immediately found direct expression in the canvases he produced and critics quickly came to associate him with New York. His enthusiasm was recounted to an interviewer in 1892: "I believe the thoroughfares of the great French metropolis are not one whit more interesting than the streets of New York. There are days here when the sky and atmosphere are exactly those of Paris, and when the squares and parks are every bit as beautiful in color and grouping." (as quoted in H.B. Weinberg, "Hassam in Paris" in Childe Hassam: American Impressionist, New Haven, Connecticut, 2004, p. 90)

    Hassam wrote of New York, "To me New York is the most wonderful and most beautiful city in the world. All life is in it...No street, no section of Paris or any other city I have seen is equal to New York." (as quoted in "Hassam in New York, 1889-1896," in Childe Hassam: American Impressionist, p. 87) Hassam's sense of composition and highly sophisticated brushwork, honed by his depictions of Parisian street life, were perfectly suited to capturing the spirit of the burgeoning, increasingly modern city and, indeed, he drew much inspiration from the public spaces leading critic Sadakichi Hartmann to call the artist, "New York's 'street painter par excellence.'" ("Hassam in New York, 1889-1896," in Childe Hassam: American Impressionist, p. 96)

    The present work is a striking nocturne that captures the bustling atmosphere of Sixth Avenue as the juxtaposition of elevated railroad and horse and buggy reveal a city in transition. The rich blues and grays of street and sky are dramatically perforated by twinkling street lanterns as the smoke from the el diffuses into the evening sky. Hassam employs short, brisk brushstrokes to capture the activity of the scene, capturing the motion of the various figures in the crowd. The diagonal trajectory of train tracks and buildings creates a tremendous recession of space and further underscores movement and activity in the scene. In Sixth Avenue El--Nocturne (the El, New York), Hassam captures the spirit, energy and excitement of fin-de-siécle New York.

    This painting will be included in Stuart P. Feld's and Kathleen M. Burnside's forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist's work.


    Dr. Chester J. Robertson, Pelham, New York.
    Macbeth Galleries, New York, acquired from the above, 1953.
    Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York, 1954.
    Mrs. Sherman Hoyt, acquired from the above, 1956.
    Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc., New York, 1958.
    Mrs. Eliot Hyman, New York, 1975.
    Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc., New York, 1975.
    Frank Sinatra, Palm Springs, California, acquired from the above, 1975.
    Christie's, New York, 30 November 1990, lot 110.
    Gordon Getty, acquired from the above.
    Debra Force Fine Art, Inc., New York.
    Acquired by the present owner from the above, 2008.

    Pre-Lot Text

    Property of a Midwestern Collection


    J.S. Czestochowski, "Childe Hassam: Paintings from 1880 to 1900," American Art Review, January 1978, p. 48, illustrated.
    S. Canterbury, Noble Dreams & Simple Pleasures: American Masterworks from Minnesota Collections, exhibition catalogue, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2009, p. 54.


    Minneapolis, Minnesota, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Noble Dreams & Simple Pleasures: American Masterworks from Minnesota Collections, February 22-May 3, 2009.