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This delightful piece reminds us of the very specific influences which drove much of Childe Hassam's career. The artwork can today be found in Ohio, USA, at the Toledo Museum of Art.
Rainy Day, Boston was completed by the artist in 1885 and was one of a number of paintings that he created within this city, also including the likes of At Dusk (Boston Common at Twilight) which features a similar tone to this. The artist would spend time within the public galleries of Boston, learning more about French art which is particularly well represented here. Whilst it could not achieve as much as visiting the country itself, it was an excellent alternative which gave him new technical and compositional ideas for his work. He would eventually spend many years living in France at various points and that ultimately completed his education on movements such as French Impressionism and the Barbizon School. Some of his most famous paintings are now displayed in Boston alongside the very same artworks that he used for inspiration over a century ago. The Ohio gallery that now own this piece purchased it some decades ago with funds generously donated by the public and it remains one of the highlights of their impressive collection.
Within Rainy Day, Boston, we find two streets converging. A number of figures make their way up and down these two streets, some by carriage and others on foot. The detail gives us an excellent insight into the lives of Americans in the late 19th century. Although the Impressionists would not use quite the same level of detail as Realists, one can still make out a lot through the 'impressions' that they deliver. Hassam took the European techniques and helped to forge the American version, and achieved a great level of success in doing so. Cityscapes were common within his work, as were attempts to study and capture the changing impact of seasons and weather. Rain appears here, for example, and the rain across the road helps to deflect light across the piece. Hassam never lost interest in studying these effects, and would also cover fading light, snow and wind in other pieces. He was also talented in architectural painting and we find plenty of examples of that within Rainy Day, Boston as well.
The artwork is 66.3 cm tall by 122 cm wide. It has been loaned out by the present owners several times for various exhibitions, most frequently in the 1980s and 1990s. It also was on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2004 for a specialist exhibition titled Childe Hassam: American Impressionist. The location of this Boston piece is believed to be the intersection of Columbus Avenue (on the left) and Appleton Street. Local people would, of course, be able to identify it straight away. That area of the city was amongst the most affluent at the time and so the artist chose to capture the slightly more wealthier residents in deciding to work from this particular point. It was certainly calmer that his other cityscapes, most of which were full to bursting with people and vehicles. The two converging streets gives a wide angle to the piece which was also an interesting compositional choice and perhaps influenced by the growing role of photography within art and society more generally.