The years that Childe Hassam spent in France from 1886 until 1889 would have an enduring influence for the remainder of his career as an American Impressionist painter. During this period France attracted a host of American artists seeking to immerse themselves in the ways of the Impressionists. While living in Paris with his wife, Hassam frequently traveled beyond the city limits to become acquainted with attractive subject matter that he found in the French countryside. Sannois exemplifies Hassam's seminal work in France during this period in both subject and style. Sannois, a small village in Val d'Oise outside of Paris, provided picturesque subject matter and a peaceful retreat from the busy French capital.
While living in Paris, Hassam consciously improved his painting style, creating bold compositions and emulating the sophisticated techniques of fashionable painters. With broken yet controlled brush strokes, sophisticated command of color, atmosphere and light, Sannois represents one of Hassam's most successful early forays into Impressionism. Throughout the composition the artist has varied the texture of the paint surface. The greenery above the wall is painted in delicate tones that saturate the canvas. In comparison, he has used thick, colorful impasto to suggest the blossoms on the trees and the rocks and rubble seen in the foreground. Likewise, the face of the warm, sun-splashed wall is animated with rich brushstrokes and subtly infused color.
Sannois also displays Hassam's interest in exploring bold compositional formats - a hallmark of his Impressionist works. The canvas is divided into great passages of light and shade, in which the varied paint surface and his expressive brushwork nearly become the subject of the painting itself.
For Hassam, works like Sannois represented his own ideal of Impressionism - a combination of inspiration and observation. Hassam said, "The word 'impression' as applied to art has been used, and in 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...The true 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) Sannois exemplifies Hassam's approach to painting, combining observed elements with innovative technique - elements that would continue to define his greatest achievements as an Impressionist.
This painting will be included in Stuart P. Feld's and Kathleen M. Burnside's forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist's work.