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's and Kathleen M. Burnside's forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist's work.
In 1886, following several years of success in Boston as a painter and watercolorist, Childe Hassam set sail for Paris with his wife Maud. Paris in the 1880s attracted a host of American artists seeking to immerse themselves in the ways of Impressionism, and inspired by this synergistic environment, Hassam would remain in France for the next three years. While he could not afford much travel out of the city, the Hassams formed a close friendship with the Blumenthal family, who lived in Villiers-le-Bel in the Oise Valley, approximately ten miles northeast of Paris. Visits to their home in the French countryside were a welcome escape from the bustle of Paris, with Hassam writing, "I wish we were at the Shoals for this summer but we will really go to Villiers-le-Bel and I shall paint in a charming old French garden." With “a walled enclosure that included formal terraces, flower beds, winding paths, earthen walkways, and benches set beneath shade trees," this pleasant, rustic home proved to be a brilliant source of creativity for the artist, inspiring some of the most romantic works of his career, such as In the Doorway. (U.W. Hiesinger, Childe Hassam: American Impressionist, New York, 1994, p. 50)
In the present painting, Hassam depicts the Blumenthal estate with particularly wonderful effects of light and shadow, contrasting the bright, blooming outdoors with a dark, indiscernible interior populated by a mysterious woman. Energized through broken brushstrokes and effective pops of color, Hassam creates a dreamy atmosphere, inspiring a contemporary critic to proclaim of his works from this period, "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." (as quoted in W. Gerdts, Childe Hassam: Impressionist, New York, 1999, p. 172)
Here Hassam formulates much of the scene with muted browns, greens and grays; yet, from this subdued color scheme emerges the brilliance of the red and pink of the flowers surrounding the doorway, the rosy detail of the woman's hat topping her muted silhouette, and the bright white of the daisies in the yellow pot at left. Hassam’s works painted in Villiers-le-Bel featured some of his most brilliant hues painted to date, and exhibit his stylistic shift while in France to a more Impressionistic use of color and brushwork. 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, p. 171) A triumph of refined color and light, In the Doorway epitomizes this melding of styles that would come to define the power and creativity of Hassam’s unique form of American Impressionism.