CHILDE HASSAM (1859–1935)
Feeding the Pigeons in the Piazza, about 1890–91
Watercolor on paper, 20 7/8 x 12 in.
Signed (at lower left): Childe / Hassam
Executed about 1890–91
RECORDED: William Dean Howells, Venetian Life, vol. 2 (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin & Co., 1892), illus. in color opposite p. 88, as “Feeding the Pigeons in the Piazza,” aquatint by Donald Ramsay, Boston, after Hassam // Warren Adelson, Jay E. Cantor, and William H. Gerdts, Childe Hassam, Impressionist (New York: Abbeville Press, 1999), pp. 10, 122, 123 fig. 132 illus. in color, as “Feeding the Pigeons in the Piazza, ca. 1883” // H. Barbara Weinberg et al., Childe Hassam: American Impressionist, exhib. cat. (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004), pp. 24 fn. 29, 260, 265 fn. 36
EXHIBITED: Coe Kerr Galleries, New York, and The Boston Athenaeum, Boston, Massachusetts, 1983, Americans in Venice, 1879–1913, p. 66 no. 48 illus. // Adelson Galleries, New York, 2006, Light Impressions: American Works on Paper, 1875–1925, no. 5 illus., as “c. 1883” // Adelson Galleries, New York, 1999, and Meredith Long & Company, Houston, Texas, 2000, Childe Hassam: An American Impressionist, no. 2 illus. in color, as “Feeding the Pigeons in the Piazza, c. 1883”
EX COLL: the artist; Mr. Augustus Hemenway, Boston, Massachusetts; to his daughter, Mrs. Auguste Richard, New York, until 1961; to her daughter, Mrs. Rufus King, New York; [Coe Kerr Galleries, New York, 1981]; Warner Communications, New York, by 1987; [Adelson Galleries, New York, by 1994]; to Mr. and Mrs. Alan Mirken, New York, until 2002; to Alan Mirkin, New York, until 2014; and by descent in the family, until the present
Feeding the Pigeons in the Piazza underscores Hassam’s enduring interest in watercolor, a medium lauded for its spontaneity and translucent, light reflecting property, as well as its easy portability. Undaunted by its fluid nature––which required that an artist work quickly and with great control––Hassam remained a devoted watercolorist throughout his career, contributing to the medium’s popularity in American art circles through his participation in the exhibitions of the American Water Color Society and later the New York Water-Color Club, where, a founding member, he served as president from 1890 to 1896. In fact, during his early years in New York, Hassam was better known for his sparkling watercolors than for his oils; in 1890. Certainly, Hassam’s expertise in manipulating this oftentimes difficult medium is apparent in Feeding the Pigeons in the Piazza, wherein the artist defines his subject by means of thin, transparent washes of color––primarily soft blues, mauves, and pinks––which impart a gentle lyricism to the image. As was the case with many impressionists who worked in watercolor, Hassam also makes ample use of the underlying ground to enhance the feeling of light. These qualities, as well as the pleasing contemporary subject, no doubt appealed to the work’s first owner, Augustus Hemenway (1853–1931), a prominent Boston philanthropist who served as a trustee of the Museum of Fine Arts.