A monumental piece of canvas art by Childe Hassam depicting dozens of American flags has been donated to the New York Historical Society by Richard Gilder. It is one of the last paintings from the world-known “Flag” series to have remained in private hands.
Childe Hassam, pioneer of American Impressionism noted for his urban and coastal scenes, was born in 1859. This talented artist began his career as a free-lance illustrator in Boston, but in 1886 moved to Paris to study at the prestigious Academie Julian. Three years later, he returned to the United States and settled in New York City. Childe Hassam quickly gained critical acclaim as his paintings grew in popularity. Thus, by 1909 he was already enjoying great public success, earning $6,000 per work. Moreover, six of his awesome paintings were introduced at the legendary 1913 Armory Show that is widely credited for bringing modern art to New York. In general, during his lifetime, the artist created more than two thousand pastels, oil and watercolor paintings, as well as a large number of prints. Childe Hassam died in East Hampton in 1935, at age 75.
The donated to the New York Historical Society canvas is the second work from the “Flag” series that consists of 30 paintings created during the period of 1916 to 1918. Originally named as “The Fourth of July, 1916,” it depicts Fifth Avenue decorated with Stars and Stripes during the Independence Day celebration in New York held in 1916, when people united by patriotism and love of country took to the streets to support the “Preparedness Movement” in anticipation of the imminent U.S. entry into World War I in Europe. This Hassam’s masterpiece of canvas art that is more than 3 x 2 feet in size very accurately conveys the people’s mood of that memorable day.
Although Childe Hassam is not the only artist who created flag-themed works (let’s just remember Claude Monet and Jasper Johns), his paintings depicting flags on New York’s most fashionable streets have a distinctly American character complemented with author’s artistic vision and his own compositional style. The “Flag” series includes both, oil painting with the flags dominating in the foreground, as well as paintings with the flags that are just a part of the festive panorama. It’s interesting that Hassam’s famous “The Fourth of July, 1916” work first introduced at the New York’s Montross Gallery was also a part of the Frank Sinatra’s art collection. However, today it is available to the public of the New York Historical Society. The Museum is going to host a traveling exhibition of fine art in the spring of 2017. It will coincide with the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War I. Moreover, you can also enjoy the Childe Hassam’s Flag paintings in the art collections of the National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), the Princeton University Art Museum (Princeton, New Jersey), the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (Richmond, Virginia), and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City).