Cosmopolitanism and the Gilded Age

Childe Hassam (1859–1935)
Horse Drawn Cabs at Evening, New York, c. 1890
Watercolor on paper, 14 x 17 3/4 in. (35.6 x 45.1 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.66

Object-Childe Hassam, Horse Drawn Cabs at Evening, New York

Childe Hassam, a preeminent American impressionist, pioneered the artistic portrayal of the modern American city and was one of the most critically and financially successful artists of his generation. Horse Drawn Cabs at Evening, New York is a view looking toward Madison Square in Manhattan. Hassam skillfully employed the fluid medium of watercolor to obscure recognizable landmarks, as if viewed through rain, and to explore the effects of light shimmering on wet pavement, the blurred movement of passersby under umbrellas, and cabs in the street. Urban street scenes became Hassam’s specialty when he moved to New York in 1889 after a three-year sojourn in Paris. He was particularly drawn to the theme of cabs, and is said to have painted from the perch of a hansom, using the front seat as his easel. His broken, expressive brushwork and keen interest in the incessant flux of modern urban life signify his embrace of impressionism.

Learn more about this watercolor on the Terra Foundation website.


Perspective

The experience of turn-of-the-century New York City was a subject as important to painters as it was to novelists, but where writers such as Theodore Dreiser (1871–1945) dug into the grittiness of urban lives, Childe Hassam absorbed its visual spectacle. Illustrations by Hassam and Hughson Hawley (1850–1936) for articles in Scribner’s and Harper’s Weekly documented the popular joy of promenading. As in Paris, this was an important social activity for New York’s upper classes, who made themselves visible to others in spaces of leisure and amusement. Hassam, like a latter-day descendent of midcentury French flâneurs, used a hansom cab as a moving studio, inserting himself into the multitude while remaining invisible from the crowd. “There is nothing so interesting to me as people,” Hassam remarked in an 1892 interview. “I am never tired of observing them in every-day life, as they hurry through the streets on business or saunter down the promenade on pleasure. Humanity in motion is a continual study to me.”A.E. Ives, “Talks With Artists: Mr. Childe Hassam on Painting Street Scenes,” Art Amateur 27 (October 1892): 116–117.

The watercolor Horse Drawn Cabs at Evening, New York (c. 1890) demonstrates Hassam’s persistent interest in rainy scenes, which can also be seen in the paintings Rainy Day, Boston (1885, Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio) and Cab Stand at Night, Madison Square, New York (1891, Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts). The faint light of the street lamp reflecting off the display window creates a shimmering reflection on the wet surface of the street. Hassam preferred specific weather conditions and settings that offered a view of the city unaffected by the class conflict and ethnic tensions prevalent in America’s urban centers. To capture this moment, Hassam would have waited for the most picturesque groups of passersby to appear. Confined to a brief sketch rather than an overwhelming panoramic view, this work provided a visual parallel to critic and writer Mariana G. Van Rensselaer’s (1851–1934) representation of the metropolis in her essay “Picturesque New York,” published in Century Magazine in 1892.

During his long career, Hassam worked in both oils and watercolor, but the latter dominated his early output. Comparing the Terra Foundation watercolor with the oil sketches April Showers, Champs Elysees, Paris (1888, Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska) and Cab Stand at Night, Madison Square, New York, it is not difficult to see a subtle transition in Hassam’s technique. In the watercolor it appears he was on the threshold of achieving an eclectic conglomerate of staccato dabs of impressionism, as well as the tonal harmony and flat patterning of James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834–1903). Realist execution in Hassam’s work gradually gave way to a more flattened and decorated way of painting through the dissolution of figure and form. As skyscrapers supplanted the genteel avenues of the nineteenth-century city, the horse-drawn cabs he depicted would soon be replaced by automobiles and the upward thrust of the skyline would soon forever alter New York’s urban view.

Chen Yao
Assistant Professor, Hefei University of Technology, China


    Childe Hassam (1859–1935)
    Horse Drawn Cabs at Evening, New York, c. 1890
    Watercolor on paper, 14 x 17 3/4 in. (35.6 x 45.1 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.66

    Cosmopolitanism and the Gilded Age

    Childe Hassam (1859–1935)
    Une Averse—rue Bonaparte, 1887
    Oil on canvas, 40 3/8 x 77 7/16 in. (102.6 x 196.7 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1993.20
    William Merritt Chase (1849–1916)
    Morning at Breakwater, Shinnecock, c. 1897
    Oil on canvas, 40 x 50 in. (101.6 x 127.0 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.30
    Edmund C. Tarbell (1862–1938)
    In the Orchard, 1891
    Oil on canvas, 60 3/4 x 65 1/2 in. (154.3 x 166.4 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.141
    Mary Cassatt (1844–1926)
    Summertime, 1894
    Oil on canvas, 39 5/8 x 32 in. (100.6 x 81.3 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1988.25
    John Singer Sargent (1856–1925)
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    Oil on canvas, 18 1/2 x 11 3/4 in. (47.0 x 29.8 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1996.53
    John Singer Sargent (1856–1925)
    Breton Girl with a Basket, Study for “En route pour la pêche” and “Fishing for Oysters at Cancale”, 1877
    Oil on canvas, 19 x 11 1/2 in. (48.3 x 29.2 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.129
    John Singer Sargent (1856–1925)
    Girl on the Beach, Study for “En route pour la pêche” and “Fishing for Oysters at Cancale”, 1877
    Oil on canvas, 19 x 11 1/2 in. (48.3 x 29.2 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.131
    John Singer Sargent (1856–1925)
    Young Boy on the Beach, Study for “En route pour la pêche” and “Fishing for Oysters at Cancale”, 1877
    Oil on canvas, 17 1/4 x 10 1/4 in. (43.8 x 26.0 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.132
    James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834–1903)
    The Zattere: Harmony in Blue and Brown, c. 1879
    Pastel, with traces of black chalk, on brown wove paper, 11 x 7 5/8 in. (27.9 x 19.4 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1992.162
    James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834–1903)
    Note in Red: The Siesta, by 1884
    Oil on panel, 8 5/16 x 12 in. (21.1 x 30.5 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.149
    Joseph H. Boston (1860–1954)
    From Shore to Shore, 1885
    Oil on canvas, 27 5/8 x 35 5/8 in. (70.2 x 90.5 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.13
    George de Forest Brush (1855–1941)
    The Weaver, 1889
    Oil on canvas, 12 x 15 in. (30.5 x 38.1 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1988.23
    Theodore Wendel (1859–1932)
    Brook, Giverny, 1887
    Oil on canvas, 28 1/2 x 35 5/8 in. (72.4 x 90.5 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1987.13
    Irving Ramsey Wiles (1861–1948)
    On the Veranda, 1887
    Oil on canvas, 20 1/4 x 26 1/4 in. (51.4 x 66.7 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.152
    Charles Courtney Curran (1861–1942)
    Lotus Lilies, 1888
    Oil on canvas, 18 x 32 in. (45.7 x 81.3 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.35
    Dennis Miller Bunker (1861–1890)
    Brittany Town Morning, Larmor, 1884
    Oil on canvas, 14 x 22 in. (35.6 x 55.9 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1991.1
    John Singer Sargent (1856–1925)
    Dennis Miller Bunker Painting at Calcot, 1888
    Oil on canvas mounted on Masonite, 27 x 25 1/4 in. (68.6 x 64.1 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.130
    William Merritt Chase (1849–1916)
    Spring Flowers (Peonies), by 1889
    Pastel on paper, prepared with a tan ground, and wrapped with canvas around a wooden strainer, 48 x 48 in. (121.9 x 121.9 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.32
    Childe Hassam (1859–1935)
    Horse Drawn Cabs at Evening, New York, c. 1890
    Watercolor on paper, 14 x 17 3/4 in. (35.6 x 45.1 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.66
    John Leslie Breck (1860–1899)
    Garden at Giverny (In Monet's Garden), c. 1887–91
    Oil on canvas, 18 1/8 x 21 7/8 in. (46.0 x 55.6 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1988.22
    Guy Rose (1867–1925)
    Giverny Hillside, c. 1890–91
    Oil on panel, 12 7/16 x 16 1/8 in. (31.6 x 41.0 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1992.2
    Childe Hassam (1859–1935)
    Horticulture Building, World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893
    Oil on canvas, 18 1/2 x 26 1/4 in. (47.0 x 66.7 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.67
    Theodore Robinson (1852–1896)
    Blossoms at Giverny, 1891–92
    Oil on canvas, 21 5/8 x 20 1/8 in. (54.9 x 51.1 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1992.130
    Lilla Cabot Perry (1848–1933)
    Self-Portrait, c. 1889–96
    Oil on canvas, 31 7/8 x 25 5/8 in. (81.0 x 65.1 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.107
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    Les Invalides, Paris, 1896
    Oil on canvas, 13 1/8 x 16 1/8 in. (33.3 x 41.0 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.140
    John H. Twachtman (1853–1902)
    Winter Landscape, c. 1890–1900
    Oil on canvas, 30 1/8 x 30 1/8 in. (76.5 x 76.5 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1992.136
    Willard Metcalf (1858–1925)
    Havana Harbor, 1902
    Oil on canvas, 18 5/16 x 26 1/8 in. (46.5 x 66.4 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1992.49
    Thomas Eakins (1844–1916)
    Portrait of Thomas J. Eagan, 1907
    Oil on canvas, 24 x 20 in. (61.0 x 50.8 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Art Acquisition Endowment Fund, 1998.1
    Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851–1938)
    Portrait of a Lady Holding a Rose, 1912
    Oil on canvas, 21 1/4 x 16 1/4 in. (54.0 x 41.3 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.46
    Frederick Carl Frieseke (1874–1939)
    Lady in a Garden, c. 1912
    Oil on canvas, 31 7/8 x 25 3/4 in. (81.0 x 65.4 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.52