In December 1896, Childe Hassam sailed for a yearlong sojourn to Europe, arriving first in Naples, Italy. Not intending to remain in one city, Hassam spent the year revisiting his favorite places abroad. In his works from this period, Hassam continued to explore the pictorial possibilities of high vantage points, painting sweeping panoramic landscapes of a kind he had previously begun in New York. He traveled from Naples to Rome and Florence, painting vistas of Posilippo, Capri, the Bay of Naples, the Spanish Steps and the Ponte Vecchio against the Arno River. "Hassam approached his subjects with an air of aesthetic detachment. . . Whether in city views or landscapes, visual beauty was his primary concern. The more brutal or squalid aspects of city life held no interest for him, and even his concern for working-class subjects was tinged with romantic idealism. However, the idealism and seeming detachment of his paintings often obscure the fact that his work stems from the most direct personal experiences-whether they were of neighborhoods he walked in, sights discovered in some foreign town, or views obtained from his studio window." (Ulrich W. Hiesinger, Childe Hassam: American Impressionist, New York, 1994, p. 10)
In Bridge at Posilippo, Naples, one of several paintings executed from different viewpoints outside the city, Hassam employs a succession of quick brushstrokes creating an abstract surface patterning of the city's architectural elements. During this time, Hassam applied an increasingly lighter palette; "The artist once referred to these light toned canvases as simply the result of personal preference, but other comments he made suggest that he was challenged by the particularly difficult problem of achieving successful harmonies in light tones." (Ulrich W. Hiesinger, Childe Hassam: American Impressionist, New York, 1994, p. 109)
The paintings completed during Hassam's year abroad reveal " . . . the artists openness to stimuli from all directions and his willingness to explore alternative treatments of the picture surface." (Ulrich W. Hiesinger, Childe Hassam: American Impressionist, New York, 1994, p. 115) In fact, Bridge at Posilippo, Naples was considered so important, it was submitted for inclusion in the momentous Armory Show in 1913, fifteen years after it was painted.
This painting will be included in Stuart P. Feld's and Kathleen M. Burnside's forthcoming catalogue raisonn of the artist's work.