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Childe Hassam | Poppies on the Isles of Shoals, 1890

Throughout his career, Frederick Childe Hassam (American, 1859-1935) made several extended trips to Europe, where he was inspired by the sights and the many artists he met there.
A Back Road, completed the year after his first European tour, demonstrates a compositional daring and freedom of brushwork that were still unusual in American art of this period.
Influenced by the work of the nineteenth-century French Barbizon School, Hassam emphasized heavy brushstrokes and intense lighting effects.

Childe Hassam | Poppies on the Isles of Shoals, 1890 | Brooklyn Museum

During a return visit several years later, Hassam found "a charming old French garden" at Villiers-le-Bel, near Paris.
The setting reminded him of Appledore Island off the coast of Maine, home to his friend, the poet Celia Thaxter.
"Poppies on the Isles of Shoals" is one of a number of works painted on Appledore in the years immediately following his Paris sojourn. | Source: © Brooklyn Museum

Childe Hassam | Poppies, Isles of Shoals, 1891

Childe Hassam was a regular visitor to the Isles of Shoals, nine small, rocky, treeless islands off the New Hampshire coast.
His acquaintance with the islands was due to his poet friend Celia Thaxter, whose house on Appledore Island was a summer mecca for writers, painters, illustrators, musicians, and other artistic visitors.
Between 1890 and 1894, the year of Thaxter's death, Hassam painted many fine works there, some depicting the interior of Thaxter's cottage, others (the majority), outdoor scenes set either in or nearby her much-admired flower garden.

Poppies, Isles of Shoals presents a broad vista moving from a dense foreground of flowers to a background of rocks, water, and sky.
This view, centered on an outcropping called Babb's Rock, was one of Hassam's favorites, for he painted it many times.
Although ample signs of man's presence were readily apparent from Celia Thaxter's garden, Hassam usually excluded them from his paintings.
Here, only a passing sailboat hints that we are not in some pristine, wild environment.

Childe Hassam | Poppies Isles of Shoals, 1891 | National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.

The composition is divided into three distinct and equal bands of space, in which different colors predominate: green and red for the flowers; blue, purple, and white for the rocks and water; and pale blue for the sky.
Hassam's brushwork is equally varied, ranging from lush red and white strokes defining the flowers to long drags of pigment suggesting the multihued surfaces of the rocks.
At the bottom he left areas of canvas bare, adding yet another color and texture. For anyone accustomed to academic landscape painting, seeing one of Hassam's Isles of Shoals paintings was, as one reviewer wrote, "like taking off a pair of black spectacles that one has been compelled to wear out of doors, and letting the full glory of nature's sunlight color pour in upon the retina". | Source: © National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

Nel corso della sua carriera, l'artista Americano Frederick Childe Hassam (1859-1935) fece numerosi viaggi prolungati in Europa, dove trasse ispirazione dai luoghi e dai numerosi artisti che incontrò lì.
A Back Road, completato l'anno successivo alla sua prima tournée europea, dimostra un'audacia compositiva ed una libertà di pennellata ancora insolite nell'arte americana di questo periodo.
Influenzato dal lavoro della scuola francese di Barbizon del XIX secolo, Hassam enfatizzava pennellate pesanti ed effetti di luce intensi.
Durante una visita di ritorno diversi anni dopo, Hassam trovò "un incantevole vecchio giardino francese" a Villiers-le-Bel, vicino a Parigi.
L'ambientazione gli ricordava l'isola di Appledore, al largo della costa del Maine, dove viveva la sua amica, la poetessa Celia Thaxter.

Childe Hassam | Celia Thaxter in Her Garden, 1892