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Fifth Avenue in Winter

Childe Hassam (American, 10/17/1859–08/27/1935)

c. 1892

Medium oil on canvas Measurements H: 22 x W: 28 in. (55.9 x 71.1 cm) Credit Purchase Accession Number 00.2 Location Gallery 8, Scaife Galleries

Narrative

Childe Hassam earned his reputation with diverse views of New York City that he created around the turn of the century. The New York studio in which he worked from 1890 to 1892 was located on Fifth Avenue near Union Square; Fifth Avenue in Winter was painted from one of its windows. The painting skillfully conveys the fashionable New York of the day, with its well-dressed pedestrians, horse-drawn omnibuses and cabs, and brownstone buildings. Though generally Impressionist in technique, Fifth Avenue in Winter has a subdued and delicately modulated color scheme. Occasional touches of red and violet enliven an otherwise muted palette. Unlike the French Impressionists, who eschewed the use of black, Hassam defined some of his forms with a black under-painting that sharpened the sense of design and heightened the contrasts in his pictures. This composition, in which an empty foreground accentuates a diagonally receding sidewalk and street, echoes Hassam's early paintings of Boston. However, the elevated vantage point is a recognizably Impressionist device that recalls Claude Monet's paintings of the Boulevard des Capucines. Unlike Monet and his colleagues, Hassam inclined toward more solidly painted, specific groupings of figures. He once remarked: "I do not always find the streets interesting, so I wait until I see picturesque groups, and those that compose well in relation to the whole."

Artist Bio

Born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, Childe Hassam became a professional illustrator in the late 1870s. He attended evening classes at the Boston Art Club, took drawing lessons from William Rimmer at the Lowell Institute, and studied painting with the Munich-trained artist Ignatz Marcel Gaugengigl. By the mid-1880s he had become an accomplished painter, most skillful in atmospheric urban views such as Rainy Day, Boston (1885, The Toledo Museum of Art) and Boston Common at Twilight (1885-86, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston). Between 1887 and 1889 Hassam studied at the celebrated Académie Julian in Paris and began to work in a fully Impressionist style. He settled in New York following his return to the United States. In the 1890s Impressionism, no longer considered outrageously avant-garde, was extremely popular in America, and Hassam soon established himself as one of its most successful and prolific practitioners.

From 1896 until his death, Hassam enjoyed a cordial relationship with Carnegie Institute. Over the years he exhibited ninety paintings at the prestigious Carnegie Internationals and at the 1910 International was honored with a one-man show. Director of fine arts John Beatty held the artist in great esteem and frequently sought his opinions on artistic matters. Carnegie Institute was the first museum to purchase one of Hassam's paintings, Fifth Avenue in Winter (00.2)(c. 1892). Several years after Hassam's death, his widow donated sixty of his lithographs and etchings to the museum in recognition of its important role in her husband's career.