Saturday, December 6, 2008


Some great American painters are currently surfing the economic crisis that rocks Wall Street and Main Street but the prices reached are nevertheless a far away shot from their higher estimate.

Childe Hassam's paintings of Fifth Avenue have long been acknowledged as masterworks of American Impressionism and the present work,
Fifth Avenue, is among the artist's finest Impressionist works of New York's most fashionable thoroughfare.

This Fifth Avenue picture executed circa 1890 is a watercolor on paper laid down on board and measures 31 x 19 1/4 in. It has been in the collection of people like the Bloomingdale, the French, galleries like Hirsch & Adler and Berry-Hill.

Estimated between 1.2 and 1.8 million dollars by Christie's it fetched in a December 2008 sale the respectable price of $1.31 million, making it the "clou" of the sale with In Pasture News ($1,42 million) by Henry Farny that failed nevertheless to reach its higher estimate.

Born Frederick Childe Hassam (1859-1935) in Dorchester, Massachusetts, his name evolved from that of his ancestor William Horsham (which became Hasham and then later Hassam) who settled in Salem in the early seventeenth century. His father was a Boston merchant of some means and a collector of antiques. When the family hardware business in downtown Boston perished in the great fire of 1872, Hassam left Dorchester High School, without completing it, to take up work first in the accounting department of a Boston publishing house and then in the firm of a Boston wood engraver.

Later during a trip in Europe, the works of J. M. W. Turner, the great landscapist and master of the watercolor, served as Hassam's favorite models. He toured the Continent with Turner very much in mind. It is the trip to Paris in 1886 that most people talk about. He set up a studio on the Boulevard Clichy, studied at the Académie Julian under Gustave Boulanger and Jules Lefebvre, and stayed three years painting, exhibiting, and making a strong bid in various ways for critical notice. His paintings were accepted for the Paris Salon showings of 1887, 1888 and 1889.

When he returned with his now "blond" palette, he was able to make a happy fusion of the European style with American tradition. His work is now owned by the most prestigious museums and private collections in the USA and Europe like the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection in Madrid, Spain.

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