Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State

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Object Details

Childe Hassam (American, 1859-1935)
United States: Connecticut
North American
oil on canvas
Overall: 32 in x 26 in; 81.28 cm x 66.04 cm
Ex-collection of the artist, 1902-1919; to Macbeth Gallery, New York, 1919, for $3,500; to Mr. Stephen C. Clark, New York, 1919-1928;to sale, American Art Association, New York, February 2, 1928, no. 69, illustrated, as Property of a Private Collector; Milch Galleries, New York; to sale 4026, Anderson Galleries, American Art Association, New York, March 2, 1933, no. 42, illustrated, as from Collection of Stephen C. Clark; Macbeth Galleries, New York, 1934; to Mr. Arthur S. Dayton, Lewisburg, West Virginia, 1948; to Dayton Art Gallery, Lewisburg, West Virginia, until 1964; to Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York, 1964; to Mrs. Stephen Haynes, (former Mrs. Charles Pratt), of Glen Cove, Long Island, and New York in 1964; to her daughter, Mrs. Alan W. (Anne Pratt) Hall, Rockport, Indiana, about 1971; by gift to the Diplomatic Reception Rooms, Department of State, Washington, D.C., since 1981
Signed and dated lower right "Childe Hassam 1902"
Credit Line
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Alan W. Hall
The Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C.
Accession Number

Object Essay

Painted in the heyday of the artists’ colony at Cos Cob, a section of Greenwich, Connecticut, Hassam’s picture typifies his blend of the domestic and the exotic both in subject and in style. The painting shows the front porch of the Holley House, a Cos Cob boardinghouse that became the focal point of this artistic community during the summer months. The house stands close to the Mianus River near Long Island Sound, seen here beyond the tree and another house. Into this comfortable, homey setting a note of elegance is introduced by the young woman’s kimono, a reminder of the great interest in Oriental art and motifs among Western artists in the second half of the 19th century. Despite her elegant costume, the woman is a serene, introspective figure.

Hassam’s style, too, has a mixture of the native and the foreign. French Impressionist influence is clear in the effect of flickering light, which the painter achieved in part by using a coarsely woven canvas with a putty-colored primer. When he brushed the principal colors over it, the canvas remained uncovered in the tiny cavities of the uneven surface, and these light areas give the sensation of reflected light. The principal colors of blue and green are less saturated and pure, more tonal than one would expect in a French painting. Such tonality was usual in American painting and Hassam’s limited palette reflects that tradition.

From 1890 until World War I, Cos Cob was a vital influence in American art, not only as a source of definably American topographical subjects, but as a meeting place for like-minded artists, whose antipathy for the pompous and academic in art was equaled by their sympathy for the modest and homegrown. With this attitude, Hassam and his friends formed The Ten, to bring their “American Impressionism” (a term Hassam himself disliked) to the attention of collectors and museums more effectively. Despite their aims and their activism, they were not radical artists but idealists, whose easy interaction with one another “and their unselfconscious rapport with the villagers represented a community seldom achieved outside Utopian literature.”1Susan G. Larkin, “The Cos Cob Clapboard School,” in Connecticut and American Impressionism, exh. Cat. (Storrs, Conn.: William Benton Museum of Art, University of Connecticut, 1980), 97. Listening to the Orchard Oriole is no. 114, illus. 107.

William Kloss

Excerpted from Clement E. Conger, et al. Treasures of State: Fine and Decorative Arts in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms of the U.S. Department of State. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1991.