Childe Hassam (1859-1935)
Childe Hassam (1859-1935)

Rainy Day, On the Avenue

Childe Hassam (1859-1935)
Rainy Day, On the Avenue
signed and dated 'Childe Hassam 1893' (lower left)
oil on canvas
16 x 18 in. (40.6 x 45.7 cm.)
The artist.
John R. Adams Collection, Syracuse, New York, acquired from the above.
By descent.
Kennedy Galleries, Inc., New York.
Private collection, Michigan.
Berry-Hill Galleries, Inc., New York, by 1986.
Sidney Sheldon, Los Angeles, California.
Estate of the above.
Sotheby's, New York, 23 May 2007, lot 68.
Acquired by the present owner from the above.
Berry-Hill Galleries, Inc., American Paintings IV, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1986, pp. 74-75, illustrated.

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Lot Essay

Childe Hassam's Rainy Day on the Avenue is a lively and engaging depiction of an elegant woman traversing a bustling, rain drenched boulevard. Hassam, one of the most accomplished American Impressionists, is considered responsible for "introducing an entire generation of Americans to the charm of ordinary city streets." (I. S. Fort, Childe Hassam's New York, San Francisco, California, 1993, p. VI) Hassam's earliest works depicted modern city life on the avenues of fashionable districts in Boston. A subsequent sojourn in Paris solidified his enthusiasm for the vitality of a bustling metropolis as subject matter and immediately found direct expression in the canvases he produced. Perhaps inspired by the boulevards in Paris designed by Baron Haussman or the paintings by artists such as Gustave Caillebotte and Claude Monet, upon his return to New York in 1889, Hassam devoted his artistic output to translating the energy and excitement of New York. One contemporary critic hailed Hassam as "a brilliant painter, a sort of Watteau of the boulevards, with unlimited spark and gaiety, movement and animation. He suggests a crowd well; he gives you the color of the streets and the tone of the city." (W.H. Howe and G. Torrey, "Childe Hassam," Art Interchange 34, May 1895, p. 133)

Rainy Day on the Avenue ranks among Hassam's most elegant portrayals of urban life. The composition is anchored by a sophisticated woman wearing the latest fashions and shielded from the inclement weather by a large black umbrella. While Hassam painted many city views in Boston and later in Paris, he seemed to devote particular care to works such as Rainy Day on the Avenue, which, while likely painted in New York, recalls the grand Parisian boulevards. Stylistically, this work embodies Hassam's newfound confidence achieved in New York and makes good use of the multitude of soft colors rendered in feathery brushstrokes that emulate the transience and energy of the bustling street.

Hassam, though an advocate of documenting real life experiences, found that it was necessary to be visually selective in his observations. In an interview in 1892 with A.E. Ives, Hassam explained his compositional methods: "I do not mean to convey the idea that you may at any minute find a subject ready at hand to paint. The artist must know how to compose a picture, and how to use the power of selection. I do not always find the streets interesting, so I wait until I see picturesque groups, and those that compose well in relation to the whole. I always see my picture as a whole. No matter how attractive the group might be, if it was going to drag my composition out of balance, either in line or color, I should resist the temptation of sketching it. I should wait, if it were a street scene, till the vehicles or people disposed themselves in a manner more conducive to a good effect for the whole." ("Talks with Artists: Childe Hassam on Painting Street Scenes," p. 117) As a result, in works such as Rainy Day on the Avenue, Hassam crystallizes the fashionable inhabitants, horse drawn carriages, street cars, shimmering pavement and windblown trees into a beautiful design that infuses the work with a sense of timelessness and harmony.

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

Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894), A Paris Street, Rain, 1877, oil on canvas, 83½ x 108¾in. (212.2 x 276.2 cm). The Art Institute of Chicago. Photo credit Erich Lessing Art Resource, NY

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