April 3, 2014 by Ray Yanek
(October 17, 1859 – August 27, 1935)
So who exactly is this guy? I have to admit that I had no idea. I was reading a book the other night called The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons by Lawrence Block, which I loved. At one point in the story Bernie Rhodenbarr, the burglar that the title refers to as well the story’s POV character, describes the voice of an individual whom he soon plans on relieving of precious cargo. The man spoke with “the Old New York accent” that resonates with “culture and good manners”. Bernie continues to say that the voice “drew me back into that Childe Hassam painting of Central Park in winter, and carriage rides, and dinners at Delmonico’s”
I’ve never been to New York, but there was something about the wistfulness of Rhodenbarr’s voice that hooked me. There was something there that I wanted to be a part of.
So I did some research, and I started to understand how seriously limited my knowledge of the art world is. I should have recognized, Hassam, the man who produced almost 3000 works of art during his career, who was an important player in the Impressionist movement, and who has a work hanging in the Oval Office of the White House.
I should have simply recognized his name because of the beauty of all the things he created.
Then I ran across this painting:
And I’ll be damned if I didn’t recognize it. Granted I probably remember seeing it in one of those knock-off art shops in a mall somewhere (yeah, I’m pretty sure I did actually…) but I’ll take it.
And then I started to recognize a few more…
I noticed a pattern too. I seemed to recognize (or maybe I was simply drawn too) the winter paintings. Perhaps that was because, even though I just lived through a rough one, I’ve always had an affinity for winter (you can read about that here) or maybe because the Impressionist style works so beautifully with that subject. The blurriness seems to mimic perfectly the low visibility of a snow storm, the texture seems to convey the slush of city streets after a wet snow fall.
For awhile, as I looked at these paintings I, like Bernie, felt pulled into one of these cities during the early 1900’s. I could hear the clomping of hooves, the giggle of the woman hiking her skirt in Central Park. I could feel the mischievousness of the boy on Fifth Avenue whom I believe is packing a snow ball and the slow descent of evening in Boston.
It was a nice little vacation, one that I think I needed.
So thank you, Mr. Rhodenbarr, for the introduction to Childe Hassam.
I’ll see you both again soon. . .