The South Ledges, Appledore Childe Hassam Buy Art Prints Now
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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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The South Ledges, Appledore is a 1913 painting by American Impressionist painter, Childe Hassam. The artwork can today be found at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, after a generous donation in the late 1920s.

We are offered an intimate moment within this composition, as an elegantly dressed woman looks over a rocky landscape. The artist would spend time in the The South Ledges, Appledore fairly regularly and had friends in the area. He featured different angles and locations around this intriguing environment and found much to inspire his work. Most of them would be devoid of any human involvement at all, but in some cases he might feature a single figure within a supporting role. The deep blue tones of the sea stand out in this piece, whilst the rocky structure in the foreground comes in several different shades. One can imagine a fairly precarious approach for the woman in this painting as she made her way down to this spot, though she would have understood the great reward once she had arrived. Her wide brimmed hat helps to shade her from the strong sun, casting a shadow across her face and neck. She wears a delightful long, white dress and enjoys a relaxed moment by herself, looking out to sea.

The artist was good friends with poet Celia Thaxter, who lived on Appledore Island off the coast of Maine. They would meet at her home several summers in a row and were also often joined by other successful artists and literary figures for several days at a time. The location was tranquil and beautifully protected from the events going on across the world at the time. It was somewhere that people could go to relax whatever was happening elsewhere. The South Ledges, Appledore therefore speaks of a type of privilege, where high ranking families could continue to relax even as WWI approached. In one sense, perhaps things have not changed that much today when you consider how more recent problems have impacted the poorer parts of society much more significantly. That said, this is still an enchanting image which provides an upbeat mood at a time when the world was about to suffer considerable pain.

Appledore's summers would not always be particularly long and so it was imperative on a day like this that residents and visitors should take in as much of their surroundings as possible. Nature was a key part of this location and Hassam wanted to take as much of that in as possible. Even his friend's garden was wild to a certain degree, allowing all manner of different plants to pop up all over the place. There would also be a smooth transition from Thaxter's property out into the wider expanse of rocks and shrubery, ensuring a balanced relationship between the locals and their surrounding environment. Clearly, the islands left a great impression on the artist and he returned frequently to spend time in the company of his friend, whilst also working hard to add to his growing selection of work made around the island.