American
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Frederick Childe Hassam (American, 1859–1935),
April Showers, Champs Elysees, Paris , 1888
oil on canvas, 12½ x 16¾, 31.75 x 42.55 cm
Museum purchase, 1946.30

The greatest of the American Impressionists, Hassam was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, and began his artistic career in 1876 as an illustrator for newspapers and magazines such as Scribner’s, Century, and Harper’s. In the early eighties, he studied with a local, Munich-trained artist, developing a style that reflected both academic realism and Barbizon School influence. By the mid eighties, responding to contemporary trends in landscape painting, Hassam was working with a carefully limited palette to produce evocative urban scenes, especially of gray, rainy days.

In 1886 Hassam went to Paris for three years, where he entered the Académie Julian to refine his figure technique. Outside the Académie the artist absorbed the influence of Impressionism, enhancing his sense of color and light. April Showers, with its loose brushwork and spontaneous texture, clearly shows Hassam’s debt to European Impressionism while at the same time remains true to the artist’s penchant for depicting inclement weather. Although a specific location is indicated by the title, there is nothing to confirm it as that of the famous avenue. Rather, the artist’s interest is entirely taken up by the effects of rain on the street and the people.

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