Childe Hassam (1859-1935)
Childe Hassam (1859-1935)
Childe Hassam (1859-1935)
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Childe Hassam (1859-1935)
4 More
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more The Cox Collection: The Story of Impressionism
CHILDE HASSAM (1859-1935)


CHILDE HASSAM (1859-1935)
signed 'Childe Hassam.' and with the artist's crescent device (lower left)
oil on canvas
23 ¾ x 18 in. (60.3 x 45.7 cm.)
Painted circa 1888-1889
Bernard Danenberg Galleries, New York.
Maxwell Davidson Galleries, New York.
Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York (acquired from the above, 1974).
Mr. and Mrs. Dunbar Bostwick, New York (acquired from the above, 1974).
Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York (acquired from the above, 1978).
Acquired from the above by the late owner, by 1978.
Special notice
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot. On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. Where Christie's has provided a Minimum Price Guarantee it is at risk of making a loss, which can be significant, if the lot fails to sell. Christie's therefore sometimes chooses to share that risk with a third party. In such cases the third party agrees prior to the auction to place an irrevocable written bid on the lot. The third party is therefore committed to bidding on the lot and, even if there are no other bids, buying the lot at the level of the written bid unless there are any higher bids. In doing so, the third party takes on all or part of the risk of the lot not being sold. If the lot is not sold, the third party may incur a loss. The third party will be remunerated in exchange for accepting this risk based on a fixed fee if the third party is the successful bidder or on the final hammer price in the event that the third party is not the successful bidder. The third party may also bid for the lot above the written bid. Where it does so, and is the successful bidder, the fixed fee for taking on the guarantee risk may be netted against the final purchase price.

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Further details
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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Lot Essay

Following a successful career in Boston, in 1886 the celebrated American Impressionist Childe Hassam journeyed to Paris with his wife Maud where he would remain until 1889. During this time in the summer months, the Hassams visited the country home of German businessman Ernest Blumenthal and his wife, who was friends with Mrs. Hassam, in Villiers-Le-Bel—a small town ten miles northeast of Paris in the Val D’Oise. Radiant in both color and execution, Geraniums belongs to a celebrated series of works Hassam painted of the Blumenthal garden at Villiers-Le-Bel, which serve as the artist’s first serious exploration of the garden motif.
The Blumenthal’s home at Villiers-Le-Bel was a stately villa that once belonged to Thomas Couture—a noted history painter who was the teacher of Edouard Manet. Attached to the estate was a large formal garden, both paved and walled, which consisted of flower beds, winding paths, shaded benches and terraces. Its plants included those not naturally grown in Northern Europe, such as geraniums, oleanders, dracaena and rhododendrons. Hassam was particularly fond of the Blumenthal garden, and wrote to a friend in 1888: “we will…go to Villiers-le-Bel and I shall paint in a charming old French garden” (quoted in U. Hiesinger, Childe Hassam: American Impressionist, exh. cat., Jordan-Volpe Gallery, New York, 1994, p. 178). Recalling the venue, the artist noted the Blumenthals “had a French gardener, who kept things beautiful” (quoted in H.B. Weinberg, Childe Hassam: American Impressionist, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2004, p. 76).
Geraniums is among the most vibrant of the approximately two dozen images Hassam set within the Blumenthal garden at Villiers-le-Bel. The present example likely depicts Mrs. Hassam, who also appears in a closely related painting of the same title dated 1888 (The Hyde Collection, Glen Falls, New York). Garbed in an extravagant dress of harmonious blues, whites and pinks, she concentrates on her sewing task engulfed within a never-ending sea of horticulture. Hassam skillfully frames his figure within the angular walls of the gardens, allowing the viewer just a slight essence of the larger garden beyond the pots of the titular geraniums along the wall. Several other paintings from the Villiers-le-Bel series also portray Mrs. Hassam or other women reading, sewing or lounging among the plants, including notable works such as Gathering Flowers in a French Garden (1888, Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts) and After Breakfast (1887, Private collection).
Painted in a bright, lively and energetic fashion, Geraniums embodies the new aesthetic and manner of painting Hassam embraced while in Paris, which established him as the leading American Impressionist. As epitomized by this work, a contemporary critic wrote of his Villiers-le-Bel series in 1889: “We should fail to do justice to the artist if we did not call attention at the same time to the delightful effects of sunlight which he skillfully manages in several garden scenes, where the soft breath of summer can almost be felt.” (quoted in W. Gerdts, "A World of Flowers" in Childe Hassam: Impressionist, New York, 1999, p. 172.) Geraniums is a quintessential embodiment of the bright, lively palette and short, liberal brushstrokes that Hassam adapted from his French impressionist contemporaries to capture the natural light of the French countryside. Hassam’s quick yet lavish brushwork brings a deliberate gestural energy to the composition of Geraniums.
Geraniums dates from one of the most critical years in Hassam’s stylistic development. While working in Boston prior to his time abroad, Hassam had worked in a Tonalist style with a darker palette and more exacting brushstrokes. He moved to Paris in 1886 with the expressed intent of “refining his talent in the larger crucible of contemporary art” (quoted in D.F. Hoopes, Childe Hassam, New York, 1982, p. 13) and began his studies at the Académie Julian. However, his experience at the school was not entirely to his liking, as he found more routine and conformity in its method than innovation. By the time he painted the present work circa 1888-1889, he stopped attending the Academy altogether in order to cultivate the tenets of Impressionism on his own.
This decision to move away from academic painting was a critical one for Hassam. Joseph S. Czestochowski explains, "In about 1886, Hassam entered an approximately ten year period that must be considered his most productive and original one. Quite suddenly, the impact of his training and the results of his Paris experience reached maturity. By the strength of his work Hassam proved that divergent styles could coexist. The year 1888 was seminal to Hassam's reputation...Thematically, the works from this year are consistent, as they are mainly color designs from nature. Despite the continued use of flowers as a decorative motif, each picture possesses its own vibrant directness and originality" ("Childe Hassam: Paintings from 1880 to 1900" in American Art Review, January 1978, p. 46).
Along with their important stylistic shift, Hassam’s Villiers-le-Bel paintings galvanized a career interest in garden imagery, and he painted the subject until the last years of his life in 1934. Lisa Miller writes “although he was not a gardener himself, or even a garden tourist, Hassam had a lifelong affinity for the transient beauty of flowers. Many of his most moving canvases study the subject. In his French floral and garden pictures Hassam used flowers as one part of a multi-faceted narrative that includes figures and a built environment” (“Hassam’s Gardens” in, exh. cat., op. cit., 2004, p. 306). Indeed, in works such as Geraniums, Hassam provides a centralized, intimate space in which to explore variations of color and organic forms.
The noted American Impressionist scholar William Gerdts writes, "Hassam's paintings of lovely women in the garden attached to the Blumenthal house are some of his finest Impressionist works, and, though far more infused with everyday narrative, recall the garden pictures by Claude Monet and other French Impressionist masters" (Childe Hassam: Impressionist, New York, 1999, p. 171). Although Hassam never visited Giverny nor met Claude Monet, he wrote from Paris to the Boston critic William Howe Downes, "even Claude Monet, Sisley, Pissarro and the school of extreme Impressionists do some things that are charming and thus will live" (quoted in ibid., 1999, p. 171). Monet lived in Argenteuil from 1872-1877 and painted numerous works of the garden which often featured his family. Kirk Varnedoe writes, “This was the period in which private gardening in France began to be enriched by a burgeoning trade in mail-order horticulture, and both Caillebotte and Monet—who doubtless often compared notes on their gardens—profited from the new range of possibilities” (Caillebotte, New Haven and London, 1987, p. 9). Like the garden imagery of these French Impressionists, Hassam’s Geraniums evokes a timeless vibrancy and natural beauty that continues to charm.
Hassam’s Villiers-le-Bel series paved the way for his other beloved garden series—that of Celia Thaxter’s Garden on Appledore Island, Maine. H. Barbara Weinberg has written, “The garden scenes Hassam painted at the Blumenthals’ country retreat anticipate, generally, his tendency to create works in a series and, more specifically, his later images of Thaxter’s Appledore Island garden” (exh. cat., op. cit.,2004, p. 76). In 1889, Hassam ventured to the remote island of Appledore, nestled among the Isles of Shoals off the coast of Maine and New Hampshire, lured to the island by the poetess and avid gardener, Celia Thaxter. Thaxter had established an informal salon composed of distinguished writers, musicians and noteworthy artists. The shoreline of Appledore was a great attraction to any island visitor, whether tourist or artist, and Hassam’s adoration of the light and color of the island encouraged him to return with regularity. Such works from this acclaimed series include Celia Thaxter’s Garden, Isles of Shoals, Maine (1890, The Metropolitan Museum of Art) and In the Garden (Celia Thaxter in her Garden) (1892, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.)
Embodying the best of the artist’s unique style of composition, color, light and atmosphere, Geraniums is a seminal example of Hassam’s signature style of Impressionist painting. Hassam, in an interview with A.E. Ives explained his own principals of style: "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 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. So many people do not observe. They take ready-made axioms laid down by others, and walk blindly in a rut without trying to see for themselves" (A.E. Ives, "Talks with Artists: Childe Hassam on Painting Street Scenes," Art Amateur, 27 October 1892, p. 117).

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