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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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As one of the most famous American artists, Childe Hassam's life and career have been examined in great detail by a number of different art institutions. This has unveiled a number of quotes, some of which we list below alongide a number of opinions on his work from others in the industry.

Hassam was someone who had a natural ability to express emotion within his paintings and so it would perhaps be inevitable that the Impressionist approach would appeal to him. He was forced to earn a living from a young age after his family ran into financial problems. The young artist was not able to study art in the formal manner but slowly managed to develop skills as a draughtsman, engraver and watercolourist through a combination of an apprenticeship and also spending some of his spare time in researching and studying artists from the past. Eventually, he went to Europe several times and this helped to complete his knowledge building. After that he would return to the US and travel more locally in search of new sources of inspiration. Hassam was successful in generating money from his work and would use lithographs as a means to further supplement his income.

One can tell much about the artist's tastes from his work. He clearly was patriotic about his native US, but also held a great affection for France too. Architecture interested him, as did the natural outdoors and he would often attempt to combine the two together. He took time to be seen with other major names in order to improve his reputation but was also keen to exchange ideas and was open minded in that regard. Many times he would meet up in groups with other artists and poets in order to exchange their thoughts on creative topics. Some of the locations where they met have also made their way into his oeuvre. His flag series helped to display his love of city life and a strong feeling of patriotism. He was excited by these booming cities, where as other artists may have been a little less enthusiastic about the growing influence of humanity over nature.

The quotes listed below help to shed a little more light on the man behind these paintings as well as listing various opinions from others about his style and achievement. He would eventually sell several thousand artworks and seemed to understand the domestic American market particularly well. He played an important role in spreading the Impressionist approach was the US, and eventually the public would start to request exhibitions of his work, plus others who were roughly of the same artistic manner. This was an eventful time in the US's history and few artists better captured it than Childe Hassam.

Famous Quotes by Childe Hassam

Art, to me, is the interpretation of the impression which nature makes upon the eye and brain.

I am often asked what determines my selection of subjects, what makes me lean towards impressionism. I do not know. I can only paint as I do and be myself, and I would rather be myself and work out my ideas, my vagaries, if you please, in color, than turn out Christmas cards and hire a clerk to attend to orders. I am often asked why I paint with a low-toned, delicate palette. Again I cannot tell. Subjects suggest to me a color scheme and I just paint.

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.

If taken individually a skyscraper is not so much a marvel of art as a wildly formed architectural freak... It is when taken in groups with their zigzag outlines towering against the sky and melting tenderly into the distance that the skyscrapers are truly beautiful.

I made my sketches from nature in watercolor and I used no white. It was this method that led me into the paths of pure color. When I turned to oils I endeavored to keep my color in that method as vibrant as it was in watercolor.

I painted the flag series after we went into the war. There was that Preparedness Day, and I looked up the avenue and saw these wonderful flags waving, and I painted the series of flag pictures after that.

I was always interested in the movements of humanity in the street... There is nothing so interesting to me as people. I am never tired of observing them in everyday life, as they hurry through the streets on business or saunter down the promenade on pleasure.

The man who will go down to posterity is the man who paints his own time and the scenes of everyday life around him.

The portrait of a city, you see, is in a way like the portrait of a person... The spirt, that's what counts, and one should strive to portray the soul of a city with the same care as the soul of a sitter.

These small shows were decidedly a success. The exhibitions were not too large to be seen easily. It was not an effort, as larger collections of pictures usually are.

The true impressionism is realism. So many people do not observe. They take the ready-made axioms laid down by others, and walk blindly in a rut without trying to see for themselves.

The word 'impressionism' as applied to art has been abused, and in the general acceptance of the term has become perverted.

Quotes about Childe Hassam by Art Historians and Fellow Artists

Hassam studied in Boston and Paris (1886–89), where he fell under the influence of the Impressionists and took to painting in brilliant colour with touches of pure pigment. On his return from Paris he settled in New York City, where he became a member of the group known as The Ten.


American painter Childe Hassam was instrumental in developing Impressionism in the United States during the late 19th century. He is best known for his scenes of bustling urban life in Boston, New York and Paris, which he treated with the Impressionist handling of light and color. He remained committed to depicting everyday life and to exploring the spontaneous nature of vision, leading The Ten, a group of Impressionists including John Henry Twachtman and J. Alden Weir which exhibited in cities along the East Coast.


Hassam's work, like that of the French Impressionists, is intimately concerned with the interaction of light, weather, and surface, especially as they change with the movement of elements within the scene, and often in concert with the frenzied pace of modern urban life. But unlike the French, Hassam avoids uncomfortable political issues in favor of an optimistic view of American industriousness and rural charm.

The most distinctive and famous works of Hassam's later life comprise the set of some thirty paintings known as the "Flag series". He began these in 1916 when he was inspired by a "Preparedness Parade" (for the US involvement in World War I), which was held on Fifth Avenue in New York (renamed the "Avenue of the Allies" during the Liberty Loan Drives of 1918). Thousands participated in these parades, which often lasted for over twelve hours.


Despite his bewilderment concerning some of the changes in contemporary art toward the end of his life, Hassam continued to express faith in the future of American art. Shortly before his death, in East Hampton in August 1935, he arranged to bequeath all the paintings remaining in his studio to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. According to his wish these were sold to establish a fund for the purchase of American works which were then presented to museums.

National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., USA

While Hassam was unusual among the American Impressionists for his frequent depictions of burgeoning cities, he spent long periods in the countryside. There he found respite from urban pressures and inspiration for numerous important works of art. Hassam’s many portrayals of the old-fashioned gardens, rocky coast, and radiant sunlight of the Isles of Shoals, Maine, are among his most cherished works.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Ambitious and determined, Hassam settled in New York with his wife, Maude, and set to work painting the booming city. In the summer months he traveled around New England and to Appledore Island off the coast of New Hampshire. A sociable and extroverted character, Hassam surrounded himself with friends who enjoyed lively dinner parties that lasted late into the evenings.

Childe Hassam's America, Broun, 1999

Hassam's devotion to Impressionism was impressive, as he steadfastly refused to adapt to the innovations in modern art coming from Europe starting in the 1910s, instead ridiculing non-representational abstraction in painting even after its acceptance as cutting-edge modernism by American critics in the interwar era.

Our mutual friend Hassam has been in the greatest of luck and merited success. He sold his apartment studio and has sold more pictures this winter, I think, than ever before and is really on the crest of the wave. So he goes around with a crisp, cheerful air.

J Alden Weir, 1909

Being an avid Francophile, of English ancestry, and strongly anti-Germany, Hassam enthusiastically backed the Allied cause and the protection of French culture. The Hassams joined with other artists in the war relief effort from nearly the beginning of the conflict in 1914, when most Americans as well as President Woodrow Wilson were decidedly isolationist.