Initially invited to the island of Appledore by the famous poetess and avid gardener, Celia Thaxter, Childe Hassam regularly spent his summers in the beautiful and remote region from 1882 to 1916. Located just seven miles off the coasts of Maine and New Hampshire, Appledore is the largest of the Isles of Shoals. Thaxter established her own intellectual salon amidst the resort community there, drawing many distinguished artists and writers of the 19th century to the area. “Appledore was a place where the imagination could flourish. Inspired by impressions of the parlor’s cultured atmosphere, the garden’s brilliant color, and the landscape’s wild beauty, Hassam executed some of his most successful works at the Isles of Shoals…The finest Shoals images, created between 1890 and 1912, coincide with the full flowering of Hassam’s powers as a painter.” (D.P. Curry, Childe Hassam: An Island Garden Revisited, New York, 1990, p. 14)
On his visits to Appledore, Hassam documented Thaxter’s garden and the landscape of the island in vibrant oils and watercolors, eventually finding his way to the rocky shorelines. It was here that Hassam created some of his finest works of the island’s geology and sea. “Thaxter thought the tiny coves where the artist was fond of setting up a portable easel were ‘the most delightful places in the world’: ‘lovely with their…mosaic of stone and shell and sea-wrack, tangles of kelp and driftwood—a mass of warm neutral tints—with brown, green, and crimson mosses, and a few golden snail-shells lying on the many-tinted gravel, where the indolent ripples lapse in delicious murmurs.’” (Childe Hassam: An Island Garden Revisited, p. 159)
In the present work, Hassam creates a breathtaking perspective looking toward the sapphire sea, positioned only footsteps away from the edge of the jagged coastline, where the white foam of the water greets the severe terrain. Rendered in soft, pale tones, a mysterious woman is placed at the shoreline, anchoring the composition where the staccato brushstrokes of the jewel-toned sea meet the warm palette of browns and reds amongst the harsh cliffs.
Appreciating this environment as an escape from the hectic city life of the colder seasons, Hassam portrays his beloved summer retreat of Appledore Island as a breathtaking place of escape and wonder. “Fresh and invigorating, the Isles of Shoals pictures stand out vividly against Hassam’s huge body of work as a whole. Memories of long-gone summers reach across the years, for his best pieces are still charged with the artist’s sense of adventure as he took chances with composition, let go with color…his paintings offer a concentrated sampling in which the oft-made generalizations about the sources, aims, and methods of late nineteenth-century American art can be better understood.” (Childe Hassam: An Island Garden Revisited, p. 14)