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

The Old Paris Cab Stand

Childe Hassam (1859-1935)
The Old Paris Cab Stand
signed and dated 'Childe Hassam. 1889.' with crescent device and inscribed 'à Madame Howe' (lower right)
oil on board
13¾ x 10½ in. (35 x 26.7 cm.)
Mr. William H. Howe, by 1928.
Macbeth Gallery, New York, 1928.
Julia E. Peck, New York and Detroit, Michigan, acquired from the above, 1929.
Mr. Richard Andrea, acquired from the above.
DuMouchelle Art Gallery, Detroit, Michigan, 22 October 1971, lot 23.
Charles Lock, New York, acquired from the above.
Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc., New York and A.M. Adler Fine Arts, Inc., New York, acquired from the above, 1973.
[With]Palm Beach Galleries, Palm Beach, Florida.
Private collection, acquired from the above.
William A. Findlay, Jr., North Palm Beach, Florida.
Private collection, acquired from the above, 1975.
By descent to the present owner.
The Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, Albright Art Gallery, Catalog of a Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings Representative of the Life Work of Childe Hassam, N.A., exhibition catalogue, Buffalo, New York, 1929, p. 17, no. 115.
Palm Beach Galleries, 19th and 20th Century French and American Paintings, exhibition catalogue, Palm Beach, Florida, 1974, n.p., no. 22, illustrated (as The Cab Stand, Paris).
New York, William Macbeth, Inc., n.d.
Buffalo, New York, The Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, Albright Art Gallery, A Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings Representative of the Life Work of Childe Hassam, N.A., March 9-April 8, 1929, no. 115.
Palm Beach, Florida, Palm Beach Galleries, 19th and 20th Century French and American Paintings, January 16-February 2, 1974, no. 22 (as The Cab Stand, Paris).

Lot Essay

In the spring of 1886, Childe Hassam left his studio in Boston to spend three years in Paris. Like several other American artists, including John Twachtman, Thomas Dewing and Gari Melchers, Hassam was attracted by the excitement surrounding the French Impressionists and decided to enroll in the famous Académie Julian to sharpen his skills. While he soon discovered that the routine of school was stifling to his own creativity, the move to Paris was nonetheless a transformative experience in Hassam’s career, during which the Impressionist atmosphere, as well as the personality of the streets inspired some of his greatest works. With broken yet controlled brushstrokes and a sophisticated command of atmosphere and light, The Old Paris Cab Stand represents one of Hassam's earliest creations in his signature style of Impressionism.

While Hassam was living in Boston for his early career, he subscribed to the principles of tonalism. Concentrating on painting the effects of atmosphere, he created realistic, low-keyed images of Boston streets in twilight, on a rainy day or illuminated by artificial light. Hassam recalled, “In Boston, among [my] earliest subjects were the city streets...scenes with wet pavements, which they say I invented. Nobody had ever done that before. [The reflections on] the asphalt appealed to me.” (as quoted in D.F. Hoopes, Childe Hassam, New York, 1982, p. 22) Although French artists such as Claude Monet had focused on this effect for years before, the American art scene Hassam knew at the time had not exposed him to this conceit.

During his time in Paris, Hassam’s style absorbed various tenets of Impressionism and shifted away from the more static approach evident in the earlier Boston works. For example, in The Old Paris Cab Stand, Hassam transforms a common scene on the street into an energetic image displaying dynamic brushstrokes highlighted with pops of orange, red and green and dashes of strong white. The broken brushstrokes infuse the work with a sense of movement, almost as if the viewer is riding by the blurred scene in a carriage of their own. This feeling is compounded by the cropped snapshot perspective, likely inspired by photography and the work of French Impressionists, such as Edgar Degas.

Yet, as evident in The Old Paris Cab Stand, Hassam did not completely abandon his prior aesthetic, including his fascination with reflection, use of subtle variations in tone and dedication to preserving a sense of realism. Donelson F. Hoopes explains, “Like his fellow American Impressionists, Hassam tended to retain the identity of the subject he painted, instead of dissolving it in an envelope of color in the way of some of the French painters...In this, he was following a very strong American tradition to particularize and to heighten the reality of the physical world thought the painted image.” (Childe Hassam, p. 9)

In an interview with A.E. Ives reflecting on his style, Hassam summarized, “Art, to me, is the interpretation of the impression which nature makes upon the eye and brain. The word 'impression' as applied to art has been used, and in the general acceptance of the term has become perverted. It really means the only truth because it means going straight to nature for inspiration, and not allowing tradition to dictate to your brush, or to put brown, green or some other colored spectacles between you and nature as it really exists. The true impressionism is realism.” (as quoted in “Talks with Artists: Childe Hassam on Painting Street Scenes,” Art Amateur, vol. 27, October 1892, p. 117) This melding of styles, as exemplified by The Old Paris Cab Stand, would come to define the power and creativity of Hassam’s art.

We would like to thank the Hassam catalogue raisonné committee for their assistance with cataloguing this work.

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

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