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American Art / Childe Hassam (1859-1935) Marine View, Isles of Shoals (Panel of a Decorative Mural for the Charles Erskine Scott Wood House, Portland, Oregon) 48 1/4 x 40 7/8 in. (122.6 x 103.8 cm.) (Painted circa 1904.)
US$100,000 - US$150,000
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Charles Erskine Scott Wood (1852-1944), Portland, Oregon, commissioned from the artist, circa 1904.
Elizabeth Stein Gallery, St. Louis, Missouri, 1976.
Campanile Galleries, Chicago, 1979-80.
Newman Galleries, Philadelphia, 1980.
Raymond J. Kenard, Jr., New York, acquired from the above, 1980.
Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York, acquired from the above, 2004.
Acquired from the above by the late owner, 2008.
The present work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Childe Hassam's work being prepared by Stuart P. Feld and Kathleen M. Burnside.
Charles Erskine Scott Wood (1852-1944) was many things over the course of his life – most of them simultaneously. Throughout his life, C.E.S. Wood held the titles of soldier, lawyer, writer, poet, art patron and critic, bibliophile, and artist. Early in life, he trained as a soldier at the prestigious United States Military Academy at West Point in New York and served as a lieutenant in the Nez Perce War in 1877, including being present at the surrender of the Nez Perce by Chief Joseph the Younger (1840-1904). Wood's military career came to an end when he resigned his commission to study law at Columbia University in 1882. While studying in New York he met and befriended J. Alden Weir (1852-1919), the son of one of Wood's instructors at West Point. Weir in turn introduced Wood to his friends Childe Hassam and Albert Pinkham Ryder (1847-1917). So began a lifelong association with artists. Wood felt deeply about art and his essay Art a Threadbare Topic was published in the Pacific Monthly in August in 1899. He mentions Weir and Ryder specifically in the article and given their 17-year friendship at the time of writing he must have thought of Hassam as well. Wood wrote in part:
"Art is useless except in the sense that it makes the world more beautiful, life more enjoyable. It is the opposite of the practical, of the exact, of the real, the useful... A good landscape or portrait does not imitate, it suggests the beauty of the view, or the quality of the person and it does more. There has been put into it something of the artist's soul, something of the man himself. That is why true artwork speaks to us more than nature herself, for the artwork is man's soul speaking to man's soul."
C.E.S. Wood was a great friend to and patron of Hassam and commissioned a mural for the library in his Portland, Oregon home. Wood hoped the mural by Hassam would transform his library from Victorian Clutter to Greek Simplicity. It was the first of three planned murals by Wood's close artist friends: Hassam, Weir and Ryder. Ultimately only Hassam's room was completed. In the summer of 1904, Hassam traveled to Portland, Oregon to install the four-part mural he had painted in New York.
For his friend's mural, Hassam selected the Isle of Shoals as the subject. The Isles of Shoals, and the Island of Appledore, about 9 miles off the coast of New Hampshire, were a source of inspiration and refuge for Hassam for thirty-five years between about 1880 and 1916. He became perhaps the greatest American interpreter of Impressionism and some of his earliest works in the Impressionist style were done on Appledore. Hassam returned to the islands for the joyous inspiration they provided, regularly painting the beloved natural garden of Celia Thaxter (1835-1894) and the craggy rock outcroppings that punctuated the island's shores. For Hassam, the isolation, the primitive natural surroundings, the light reflected off the ocean, and the colors of plants and rocks that contrasted so beautifully in the New England light, were a constant source of enjoyment, inspiration, and subject matter. Here he could paint for his own edification the paintings he most loved to create.
Marine View, Isles of Shoals captures the brilliant midday light, the clear sky, and calm water which served as an inspiration for Hassam's interpretations of color and lively brushwork. The foreground is an array of greens and yellows in overlapping and crossing marks while the rocks just beyond are restrained white strokes and canvas tones as a foil for the intense blue of the water. Further the restrained brush work in the rocks is in stark contrast to the dense short brushstrokes in the water. The clouds are feathered in with a light touch and strong vertical trees frame the vista on either side. In Marine View, Isle of Shoals, Hassam transcends the imitation of nature and captures the beauty he perceived just as Wood so eloquently described in his essay.
The largest panel (48 1/4 x 148 1/4 in.) of the mural painted by Hassam for C.E.S. Wood depicts several nude figures in the same expansive Isle of Shoals setting. Entitled The Bathers, this monumental work is in the permanent collection of the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, New York.