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Property from the Estate of Richard Smart sold on behalf of the Parker Ranch Foundation Trust
Frederick Childe Hassam (1859-1935)

The French Breakfast

Frederick Childe Hassam (1859-1935)
The French Breakfast
signed and dated 'Childe Hassam 1910' lower right--inscribed with intials 'C.H.' and dated again on the reverse
oil on canvas
28¾ x 19¾in. (73 x 50.2cm.)
Estate of the artist
American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York
Dr. and Mrs. Gerard Fountain, Scarsdale, New York
Meredith Long & Company, Houston, Texas
U.W. Hiesinger, Childe Hassam: American Impressionist, New York, 1994, p. 144, p. 142, illus.
Washington, DC, The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Childe Hassam: A Retrospective Exhibition, 1965, no. 44 and travelling
New York, Bernard Danenberg Galleries, Recent Acquisitions by American Artists, Spring/Summer 1969, no. 36, illus. on backcover
Tucson, Arizona, University of Arizona Art Museum, Childe Hassam: 1859-1935, February-March 1972, no. 79

Lot Essay

In June of 1910, Childe Hassam and his wife sailed from New York for Europe, the couple's first trip to the Continent in over thirteen years. After stopping briefly in England, the artist and his wife proceeded to the Netherlands and Belgium, where Hassam painted several canvases and visited museums in Amsterdam, The Hague and Antwerp. The Hassams then travelled to Paris, which they reached the first week of July in time to enjoy the festivities of Bastille Day. During this brief visit to Paris in the summer of 1910, Hassam and his wife stayed in a hotel in the rue Daunou, where the artist completed several exceptional canvases, including July Fourteenth, Rue Daunou in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and The French Breakfast.

The purpose of Hassam's trip to the Continent in 1910 was to refresh his understanding of the art of the Old Masters in the great European collections; a critic who knew the artsit wrote that Hassam's intention during this trip was to "look upon the (old) masterpieces of painting and form a definitive opinion of these and of the progress of painting through all its periods." (Newark Evening News, February 4, 1911)

The influence of the old master paintings that Hassam could see in Paris is evident in The French Breakfast. For example, the elegant interior space of the room depicted in the composition recalls the intimate boudoirs and salons seen in the canvases of French rococo painters such as Boucher and Fragonard. Without a doubt Hassam's proximity to these masterworks inspired him to create a quiet and familiar interior scene that evokes the timeless qualities of these French masters.

At the same time The French Breakfast exhibits Hassam's sensitivity and enthusiasm for modern French painting. As Ulrich Hiesinger has written, "In The French Breakfast bright decorative surface patterns suggest the influence of the Neo-Impressionist paintings of Pierre Bonnard or Edouard Vuillard." (Childe Hassam: American Impressionist, New York, 1994, p. 144) Hassam's palette for The French Breakfast also exhibits the artist's customary sensitivity to the relationship between brilliant, contrasting colors. For example the reds, greens and yellows seen in the wall covering radiate warmth in comparison to the blue wall covering over the bed, which recedes into the background.

The French Breakfast most likely depicts Hassam's wife Maude reading comfortably in bed. Beside her rests a tray with a silver chocolate pot and pitcher of steamed milk--the comforting components that comprise the French morning meal of le petit déjeuner. The intimate character of the painting is further enhanced by the velvet draperies that extend from the ceiling and surround the bed, the shoes that rest beside and at the foot of the bed, and the bedclothes pulled back over the chair in the center forground. These elements combine to create a refined image of the comfortable lifestyle of Americans travelling abroad.

Hassam returned to New York in November 1910, and his experiences abroad refreshed his art and reinforced his pursuit of traditional, formal problems in painting. The achievements of Hassam's trip to Paris would serve the artist well in the coming years as he continued to develop his personal style within the confines of the American Impressionist vision.

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

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