TwoAmerican Impressionists: William Merritt Chase and Childe Hassam
Theera of Impressionism was a 19th century time that was exhibited bythe breach of the rules of academic painting. In this regard,according to Thomas (30), the early impressionists made theirpaintings and pictures from the freely brushed colors, which weredifferent from the standard lines and contours used by the moretraditional academic painters. Additionally, these impressionists hadthe ability to paint the aspects of modern life in a more realisticmanner and could paint outdoors (Thomas, 31). This was different fromthe conservative artists who usually painted still lifes, portraits,and landscapes in studios. Their main aim was to present the overallvisual effects as opposed to more details. As such, Mayer, Lance, andGay (20) state that their emphasis was on the display of the lightand its changes emanating from the effects of the passage of time.Indeed, they valued the inclusion of movement as they deemed it acritical part of the human experience and perception (Craven, 13).Moreover, the early impressionists were capable of painting unusualvisual angles, which made their works exceptional. Althoughimpressionism was mostly influenced by Paris-based artists, therewere others from it spread to other countries including America.Specifically, two of the most notable Impressionist artist areWilliam Merritt Chase and Childe Hassam. This paper discusses onepiece of decorative painting from William Merritt Chase.Specifically, the visual elements of this work would be presented.Finally, a comparison would be made between the art and another oneobtained from Childe Hassam.
Part1: Introducing the Works under Study by Discussing Their Style
WilliamMerritt Chase is considered one of the greatest Americanimpressionist because of the decorative paintings that he made duringthe 29th century. One of the most notable paintings was “The OpenAir Breakfast” which is a verdant garden oasis and akin to theopen-air “sunlight” and “shadow” which he had been paintedsome years earlier (Thomas, 35). In this painting, Mr. Merritt Chasedemonstrates his ability to deploy the freely brushed colors, whichwas a break from the norm of using lines and contours. In thisparticular price of the painting, William Merritt presents hisautobiography which depicts his life after becoming a father andafter marrying his wife (Schaffner, Cynthia, and Lori, 303). Thefollowing is a portrait of the “The Open Air Breakfast” painting.
“TheOpen Air Breakfast” painting by William Merritt Chase in 1888 fromoil on canvas. It measures 37 3/8 x 56 3/4 in. and was obtained fromthe Toledo Museum of Art.
Thispainting is set in the backyard of the parents of the author, whichis in the Marcy Avenue in Brooklyn. One year before the painting,William Merritt, together with his wife had moved to the parents’home as they anticipated the birth of their child Alice, who was alsoknown as “Cozy.” From the painting, William’s wife is seenseating at the table and beside him is baby Cozy who is on the highchair. Chase’s sister Hattie appears standing in the front of thescreen while Williams’s sister in law Virginia is the one loungingin the hammock (Thomas, 34). There are several aspects of thepaintings that depict the impressionist behavior and ideals of theauthor. One of those are the color harmonies that are deployed in thefull art. Specifically, from the portraits, it is clear that thedominant colors of white, green, and brown have been professionallyharmonized to bring about a stunning piece of art. William’s wifeis wearing a white dress while the flowers at the homestead haveapparently been painted green with some red and yellow petals (Mayer,Lance, and Gay, 21). The layered surfaces provide a good visualespecially considering that a dog is lying close to where the familyis having breakfast while the flowerpots can be visualized close tothe family.
Oneof the visual elements that are perfectly displayed is the line andshape. Specifically, the painting has a clear line that istwo-dimensional. This enables the viewers to have a clear view of theelements of the portrait and get the message that is being passed bythe author of the piece of art. Additionally, the shape of thepainting is also two-dimensional flat and has an appropriate lengthand width. Although the portrait does not have a massive size, itslength, and width of 37 x 56 is an ideal one as it ensures that eachparticular elements fit well within the frame and that the shape ofthe portrait is fantastic to watch for the audience (Schaffner,Cynthia, and Lori, 304). The free flowing form of the picture whichincludes an excellent volume informed by the height, width, and depthare one of the core visual elements that have made the painting to beconsidered one of the best if not the best in the impressionist era.Specifically, it has an excellent volume, which shows just how goodthe artist was in ensuring that all the dimensions of the portraitwere up to the required and appropriate standards. Indeed, theharmonization of the different visual elements is well coordinated toproduce a masterpiece that has stunned the audience with the level ofcreativity and artistry.
Thevalue of the portrait, which includes the different colors used, isalso well presented. Specifically, the lightest, darkness and variedtones of the colors used are exemplary. For instance, an idle grey isdisplayed by the value halfway between the dark and bright colors.This enables the audience to distinguish between the images with thefamily being clearly demonstrated as well as other features such asthe sleeping dog to the surrounding wall and flowers. The hue, value,and intensity of the colors are also notable. Specifically, in theview of Schaffner, Cynthia, and Lori (305), a variety of colors canbe distinguished from the others. Additionally, the high-intensitycolor has a high quality of brightness and purity while the sharp andbright colors are good for any class of audience including those whomight have sight problems. The texture of the painting is the lastvisual element that has been significantly incorporated into thepicture. Specifically, the way that the portrait might feel iftouched is not only smooth but also emotional. A combination of allthose visual elements is a show of the vast talent that William hadat the time of the painting. Indeed, the portrait is highlyimpressive.
“TheOpen Air Breakfast” is an autobiography of William at a time thathe was expecting a child. The audience for the painting the familywho would view the picture as one displaying love and unity withinthe household (Schaffner, Cynthia, and Lori, 303). From the way thatthe various elements of the painting are arranged, it would impressthe audience into seeing how William has promoted the values of thefamily. The harmony is seen when Mr. and Mrs. Williams enjoybreakfast with their sisters in law and having their pet sleepingclose to them. The Japanese cap that is worn is a harmony between theEast and the West and is, therefore, a message to the audience thatart does not have any boundaries. The use of elements from differentcultures has enhanced the message to the public as it has attractedthe interest of not only the western American culture but also theEuropean culture.
WilliamMerritt Chase’s painting titled the “The open air breakfast”can be compared and contrasted with Childe Hassam’s “The Artist`sWife in a Garden, Villiers-le-Bel.” This is another painting thatwas made by an impressionist. Specifically, it depicts the wife ofthe artist sitting alone in a lonely place between the blossomingflowers. The environment around her cannot fail to catch the eyes ofthe audience, as there are flowerpots as well as different colors ofthe flowers. Specifically, she is wearing a white dress and the greenflowers with red and yellow petals are visible. One cannot fail tonotice the way that the environment is very conducive for theartist’s wife.
“TheArtist`s Wife in a Garden, Villiers-le-Bel” by Childe Hassam in1889. The painting measured 750x474px and was obtained fromhttp://www.the-athenaeum.org/art/detail.php?ID=27050
Acloser examination of “The Open Air Breakfast” painting byWilliam Merritt Chase and Childe Hassam’s “The Artist`s Wife in aGarden, Villiers-le-Bel” brings about several similarities that canbe obtained from the message of the two and the visual elements thatthey exhibit. However, to start with, the two paintings were done inthe same era and by artists who embraced the Impressionist ideals.Although they were not painted in the same year, they were painted inthe same decade, and the artists had the influence of the Paris-basedimpressionists. Another point of similarity can be established fromthe various colors that are used. In the two pictures, the subjectsare dressed in white dresses. However, the one that is worn by the“The Artist`s Wife in a Garden, Villiers-le-Bel” is not entirelywhite as it has several brown spots (Olander, Catherine, andNanyoung, 13). Additionally, the color of the environment that theportraits depict are clearly of serenity and where various elementssuch as flowers are found.
Theother similarity that can be proven from the two pictures is thestory behind the paintings. In this regard, both paintings depict thefamilies of the artists. Specifically, in the first portrait titled“The Open Air Breakfast,” Mr. William displays his familyincluding his wife, child, and sisters. In the second one “TheArtist`s Wife in a Garden, Villiers-le-Bel,” the painting is thatof the author’s wife who is seated in one of the paths meditating.The visual elements of the two paintings from the other similaritythat can be established, specifically, they are both two-dimensionaldescriptive pictures. Additionally, there is an excellent harmonybetween the various visual elements. More specifically, Weinberg,Barbara (66) posits that the two paintings are free flowing with thevolumes, which include the length, width, and depth being displayedspectacularly for the audience. As such, they are very attractive tothe public and can offer excellent visual features. The hues areeasier to identify in the two pictures, which makes the harmony inthe colors critical in establishing each of the elements. Finally,there is an enormous similarity in the texture of the two paintings(Weinberg, Barbara, 67). Specifically, it would feel very smooth andlovely to touch, as the paintings are a display of a huge artisticinnovation.
Themessage brought out by the creative works brings out the biggestdifference in the two pictures. In this regard, whereas “The OpenAir Breakfast” brings about a message of love, family unity, andhappiness, the “The Artist`s Wife in a Garden, Villiers-le-Bel”brings about a message of sorrow, loneliness, and isolation.Specifically, from the paintings of William and his family bothtaking their breakfast as well as their child and their sister, itshows how they are enjoying the moment and cherishing their unity andoneness. The same cannot be said of the second portrait, which showshow the author’s wife is in deep thoughts, and seated somewherealone contemplating on issues that cannot be established. As such,the message is different as the content between the two aredifferent. Additionally, in the first painting, the artists bringsabout more than one character while the second one is consistent withone person sitting alone. This is despite the fact that that two haveused the same style, which was used during the impressionist era.Indeed, the bench that the character in the second painting is facingseems to have several scattered flowers. This tells that something iswrong and there is not much happiness and love that can beestablished. This is entirely different from the first one whereeverything seems to be fine, and the characters are enjoying themoment.
Althoughmost of the visual elements in the two paintings are similar, somedifferences can be established. In this regard, the hue in the firstpainting is discernible as there are distinct colors of white, blackand brown. However, the second picture shade is a mixed one making itvery hard to state the color of the dress. Additionally, the variousattires that are worn by the characters in the first painting byWilliam shows a mix of several cultures. Specifically, although thedress and other attires are from the western culture, the cap is fromJapan ensuring, therefore, that they embrace various cultures(Olander, Catherine, and Nanyoung, 12). However, the second paintingsare clearly from an American culture judging from the dress worn.Indeed, the differences between the levels of artistry between thetwo artists are noticeable. Whereas William’s ability to mixdifferent colors is excellent, that of Childe Hassam is a bit weakregarding the level of creativity and innovation.
Inconclusion, the impressionist artists such as William Merritt Chaseand Childe Hassam abandoned the conventional academic painting waysand deployed more revolutionary methods, which focused on the lightelements and visuals of the arts, as opposed to the details of style.The two paintings from the authors were all from the same period andwere based on the lives of the artists. Specifically, the “The OpenAir Breakfast” tells a story about the family of William Merrittwhen they moved to their parents’ house moments before the birth oftheir child. In the “The Artist`s Wife in a Garden,Villiers-le-Bel” Childe Hassam portrays his wife who seems to bedepressed and isolated. However, the various visual effects such ascolor, volume, line, and texture are the same as the two paintingswere made in the same era and by artists with similar styles.
Craven,Wayne. AmericanArt.1st ed., New York, Mcgraw-Hill, 2003.
Mayer,Lance, and Gay Myers. "Understanding the techniques of Americantonalist and Impressionist painters." Journalof the American Institute for Conservation(2013): 23-25.
Olander,Catherine W., and Nanyoung Kim. "A Historical Review of AmericanImpressionist Painting: California Plein Air Painters and The CapeCod School of Art." (2010): 12-19.
Schaffner,Cynthia VA, and Lori Zabar. "The Founding and Design of WilliamMerritt Chase’s Shinnecock Hills Summer School of Art and the ArtVillage." WinterthurPortfolio44.4 (2010): 303-350.
Thomas,Greg M. Impressionistchildren: childhood, family, and modern identity in French art.Yale University Press, (2010): 30-40.
Weinberg,H. Barbara. "What`s American about American Art?LATE-NINETEENTH-CENTURY AMERICAN PAINTING: Cosmopolitan Concerns andCritical Controversies." Archivesof American Art Journal49.1/2 (2010): 66-77.