Starting Sunday, November 1, please visit Hirschl & Adler Galleries at TEFAF Online, the virtual platform for the visually stunning TEFAF in-person Fair that transforms at the Park Avenue Armory each May and October. For the first time, TEFAF Online brings together the global TEFAF community and presents 300 masterpieces of all disciplines from the world’s elite dealers in an easy to navigate and engaging digital marketplace. All that’s missing are the roving leather-aproned oyster shuckers!
Hirschl & Adler's featured work is this pastel by the American Impressionist Childe Hassam. Hassam was a master of the demanding pastel medium. In fact, he and several contemporaries, including William Merritt Chase and Robert Blum, championed pastel as a painting medium, rather than “merely” a drawing medium best suited to women. Hassam’s mastery of the expressive qualities of pastel is beautifully illustrated by A Wet Day on Broadway from 1891, in which he captures the reflective light and fluid colors of a rain-soaked avenue and sidewalks. By this point in his career, rain-slickened streets were an integral part of Hassam’s urban iconography. One contemporary commentator took note of this proclivity by suggesting that Hassam was “much happier with a wet sidewalk than a mass of flowers.”
Hassam considered New York City the most beautiful city in the world. Some of his greatest oil paintings, watercolors, and pastels record the city’s streets, neighborhoods, parks, and landmarks during the Gilded Age. In October 1889 Hassam rented an apartment and studio in the Union Square neighborhood at 95 Fifth Avenue at 17th Street. Union Square, the city’s busiest shopping district at the time, quickly became a fertile source of artistic inspiration for him. Hassam’s many views of Union Square and its environs were painted from various perspectives, sometimes from an elevated vantage point, as in such well-known works as Winter in Union Square (about 1892–92; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) and Union Square in Spring (1896; Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts). Hassam also created more intimate, street-level views of the neighborhood, among them A Wet Day on Broadway, wherein, like many of his earlier views of Boston and Paris, he conceived the thoroughfare as a slanting diagonal that leads the viewer’s gaze from the carriages in the lower right to the cluster of buildings in the upper-left quadrant of the composition—its tight cropping imbuing the scene with a vital sense of spontaneity. A Wet Day on Broadway serves as an important pictorial record of this section of Lower Broadway as it looked during the Gilded Age on a drizzly springtime day.