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Childe Hassam: Prints and Drawings from the Collection

October 4, 2003 ­ February 8, 2004


The exhibition Childe Hassam: Prints and Drawings from the Collection opening coincided with the reopening of the newly renovated Scaife Galleries on October 4, 2003. The show is presented in the new Works on Paper Gallery and is on view through February 8, 2004. The Works on Paper Galley is prominently located at the entrance to the galleries and will be used to present changing exhibitions of works from the museum's fine collection of drawings, prints and photographs.

Frederick Childe Hassam (1859-1935), the best-known American painter in the Impressionist style, began his artistic career in his native Boston, working first as a wood-engraver, then as an illustrator, and eventually established himself as a painter of city life. Hassam began to paint in the Impressionist style after he visited Paris between 1887 and 1889. In his paintings, he portrayed life in urban America, primarily his winter home of New York City, and the country landscapes of New England, where he spent his summers. Although Hassam did not consider himself an Impressionist, his paintings and drawings are as filled with color and sunlight as the works of the French painters who inspired him.

In 1915, Hassam took up printmaking­first etching and later lithography. Over the course of his career, Hassam produced some 375 etchings and 42 lithographs. His earliest prints reflect his interest in the effect of light on objects in the landscape. As he achieved technical mastery as a printmaker, his approach became bolder and more decorative. He exploited the inherent contrast between black ink and white paper to emphasize light and shadow.

Linda Batis, associate curator of fine arts, said "The drawings on view in the exhibition reveal Hassam's natural affinity for the graphic arts as a way to explore color and pictorial structure. They provide insight into a fundamental fact about Hassam's work. He drew and painted what he saw before him."

Hassam enjoyed a long relationship with Carnegie Museum of Art and John Beatty, the museum's first director. Between 1896 and 1935, Hassam exhibited more than 90 paintings at several Carnegie Internationals, the museum's recurring exhibition of contemporary art. He served on the exhibition's Jury of Award in 1903, 1904, and 1910, the year he was also honored with a solo exhibition of paintings. With the purchase of Fifth Avenue in Winter in 1900, Carnegie Museum became the first American museum to acquire one of Hassam's paintings. In 1907, Beatty purchased 30 drawings from the artist, one of the largest such groups in any museum collection. The etchings and lithographs on view are from a group of 60 prints donated to the museum by the artist's widow in 1940 in recognition of the close relationship between Hassam and the Carnegie Museum of Art.

Child Hassam: Prints and Drawings from the Collection includes 72 drawings, etchings and paintings. Many of the drawings on view were studies for some of Hassam's most notable paintings. Replicas of some of these will be on view alongside the drawings to give visitors a sense of the correlation between the study and the final work. Correspondence between Hassam and Beatty, which reveals a friendship based on mutual enthusiasm for art, will also be on view as part of the exhibition.


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