Bedford Hills

Childe Hassam

(Dorchester, Massachusetts, 1859 - 1935, Easthampton, New York)


Oil on canvas

21 7/8 in. x 25 7/8 in. (55.56 cm x 65.72 cm)

Bequest of Edwin C. Shaw


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This image of the landscape around the town of Bedford in Westchester County, New York, reveals Hassam’s exceptional ability to capture the play of sun and wind over grasses, trees and water. His diagonal brushstrokes and interlacing of brilliant colors (he often applied paint directly from the tube) give his works an intensity that is rare in American impressionist painting.


Childe Hassam Bedford Hills, 1908 Collection of the Akron Art Museum Bedford Hills exemplifies the Impressionist style of Childe Hassam. In 1886 the young painter traveled to Paris to study at the Académie Julian; while in France he was introduced to Impressionism. One of the earliest proponents of this movement in America, Hassam fused its technique and palette with his interest in American subject matter, both urban and rural. Returning from Europe in 1889, Hassam depicted the dynamic energy of New York in brightly colored canvases. During the summers he traveled regularly to the Isle of Shoals, where he painted some of his most memorable works in the gardens of Celia Thaxter. In 1903 Hassam began to search for subject matter in New England, having discovered the charms of its rural landscape and colonial architecture. He became the acclaimed leader of the art colony at Old Lyme, Connecticut, and directly influenced the careers of a number of American painters. Bedford Hills may have been painted on the way to Ridgefield, Connecticut, where the artist and his wife went to visit the illustrator and painter Frederic Remington.1 Focusing upon several large elements in the composition—the river, a few trees, and a distant hill—Hassam fashioned a quiet rustic scene flooded with sunlight. He squeezed the paint directly from the tube, applying short, staccato brush strokes onto a grayish-white ground, or base coat, which occasionally shows through. In the river, for example, one can see the ground between individual slashes of bright blue pigment. Hassam interwove strokes of yellow, green, and violet with the blue of the water in order to suggest the reflection from the bushes and trees along the riverbank. When seen from a distance, these single brush strokes of different hues mix in the viewer’s eye to create colored shadows on the water. While Hassam’s painting depicts the landscape around the old town of Bedford in Westchester County, New York, the work is as much about the transitory effects of sunlight as it is about a specific location. Like other American painters working in an Impressionist idiom, Hassam did not fully abandon traditional methods. Instead he merged Impressionist technique and color with a structured composition. For example, he rendered the distant hill on the right as a three-dimensional solid form. By painting the hill a dull gray-blue instead of the bright blue in the foreground, he represented a traditional recession into space, showing how the hill was affected by distance and atmosphere. Hassam’s rural images, such as Bedford Hills, convey the beauty of rustic areas as well as his own deep feelings for the land. Along with his friends Julian Alden Weir (see pp. 68–69), Theodore Robinson, and John Twachtman, Hassam is credited for bringing Impressionism to America and transforming it into a unique pictorial style suitable for native subjects and American audiences. - Jack Becker, 2001 1. Hoopes, 68. Gerdts, William H. American Impressionism. New York: Abbeville, 1984. Hiesinger, Ulrich W. Childe Hassam: American Impressionist. Munich and New York: Prestel, 1995. Hoopes, Donelson F. Childe Hassam. New York: Watson-Guptill, 1979.


Signed LL "Childe Hassam 1908"