The varying coastline, rugged landscape and the quaint town of East Hampton attracted numerous artists throughout the first half of the twentieth century. Childe Hassam was part of this group, finding the landscape and architecture of this quiet summer spot perfectly suited his style of Impressionism. Autumn Landscape, East Hampton from 1931 is an ambitious canvas by the artist that illustrates the hallmarks of his later style and moreover reveals the artist's love for the environs in which he lived.
Hassam first visited East Hampton in 1898 at the invitation of his friend and fellow artist Gaines Ruger Donoho. Over the next twenty years Hassam sporadically returned to Long Island during the spring and autumn as the guest of New York businessman Henry Pomroy. In 1919, Hassam and his wife Maude purchased an eighteenth century shingled cottage at 48 Egypt Lane. Affectionately called "Willow Bend," the house was sold to the Hassams by Donohos's widow who lived next door. The Hassams moved into "Willow Bend" in May of 1920 and remained in the house until October, a routine they would maintain for the rest of the artist's life.
While in East Hampton, Hassam sought inspiration from his surroundings, finding beauty in the local architecture, the uneven coastline, and the wild landscape of eastern Long Island. During his six month stays in East Hampton, Hassam produced a series of works that focused on his home and its surrounding landscape. East Hampton, Autumn Landscape is one such example depicting the grounds of "Willow Bend" on a crystalline fall afternoon. Hassam in this work portrays a group of stately trees in autumn colors, the garden and in the distance a neighbor's white clapboard house.
Hassam's painting style later in his career focused more on the effects of color which was heightened by exaggerated brushwork. Donelson Hoopes remarks: "Hassam's postwar landscape paintings partake of this new freedom to experiment with color. Unlike his earlier works, these new pictures do not seek to approximate light of nature in an 'optically correct' way. Often his palette was set in an extremely high tonal key. In this arbitrary disregard for naturalism, Hassam displayed a pronounced attachment to color for its own sake, which when combined with the broad, mannered brushwork, renders the painting an object in its own right more than a picture of something in nature." (Childe Hassam, New York, 1988, p. 84) Autumn Landscape, East Hampton, composed of varying swatches and strokes of brilliant oranges, reds and greens of the trees and surrounding vegetation set against an azure blue sky, changes from a formal recording of a backyard garden to an explosion of color, texture and light.
Hassam once exclaimed: "nature put forth her magic hand every Fall and spread before him a riot of color." ( as quoted in L.N. Peters, et al., Visions of Home, 1997, p. 120) Autumn Landscape, East Hampton is a pictorial homage to not only the home in which the artist lived but the natural splendor that was his recurring inspiration
This painting will be included in Stuart P. Feld's and Kathleen M. Burnside's forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist's work.