Winter in NYC, circa late nineteenth century

I love New York but have only ever been there in summer and am envious of people who make winter trips to see it in snow. So if you can’t make it there this year, here are some pictorial substitutes of New York looking very magical! This is a selection of works by an artist I hadn’t come across before – the American Impressionist painter Childe Hassam (1859-1935). He was an important figure in the promotion of Impressionism to the late 19th century Victorian art world and was amazingly prolific, apparently producing 3,000 paintings, oils, watercolours, etchings and lithographs.

Childe A New York Blizzard

Above is a pastel entitled A New York Blizzard from about 1890. I’m not that familiar with many American Impressionist painters apart from Mary Cassatt and of course early Whistler, so it’s nice to discover a new one. It’s hard to find good images of his paintings however. If you want to compare him to his French contemporaries, this post has a selection of French Impressionist snowscapes. This is my very favourite snowy image by Hassam: Winter, Midnight, 1894.

Hassam moved to France in 1886 to undertake a traditional academic artistic training at the famous Academie Julian. However he wasn’t happy with the stiflingly formal academic training in figure drawing and painting, stating that the academy ‘is the personification of routine….(academic training) crushes all originality out of growing men’. No surprise then that he eventually joined the group of American Impressionist painters known as ‘The Ten’ and his painting style developed into a wonderfully loose and expressive technique. Amongst his paintings my favourites are definitely the snow scenes. Below: Heckscher Tower. I love the way he’s painted the snow blowing down the wide avenue and making the buildings misty and fuzzy. A really accomplished Impressionist painting.

Childe Heckscher Tower

Below: Snowstorm, Madison Square, 1902. This is particularly good I think with its extremely fast and loose strokes, the statue, little figures and horses and carriages very sketchy but perfectly readable.

Childe A Snowstorm in Madison Square

Nice colours in this one: Cab Stand At Night, Madison Square from 1891

Childe Cab Stand At Night, Madison Square

Below: not New York but Boston this time: Boston Common At Twighlight from 1885

Childe Boston Common At Twighlight

Robert Henri (1865-1929) was another American painter, a leading figure of the realist Ashcan school who like Childe Hassam jibed against the formal and restrictive practises of the National Academy of Design and Society of American Artists, although Henri also rejected Impressionism and felt that it lacked more than a surface meaning. Henri wanted to paint real life, in even its least attractive places. “Draw your material from the life around you, from all of it.” he said. “There is beauty in everything if it looks beautiful to your eyes. You can find it anywhere, everywhere.”

One last painting by Childe Hassam, and look – he could do rain too! The Avenue In The Rain from 1917.  A lovely Impressionist painting. I’m not the only person who likes it – the painting is owned by the Whitehouse and President Obama chose it to hang on the wall of the Oval Office.

Childe Avenue in the rain

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