1° of separation

We visited an exhibition of works by Childe Hassam; it was pleasant enough. The lighting was soft and canvases were spaced widely about the gallery. There were Kennedy rockers; an audio track of gulls and of breaking waves played quietly. Forty works were on display; a few showed colorful sunsets and the balance rendered the rugged coast of Appledore Island, Maine.

I was disappointed by the exhibit for it failed to present the range of Hassam’s Appledore work and ignored his signature canvases (for example The South Ledges, Appledore). Moreover, not one of the gallery pieces showed either Hassam’s well known and accomplished patroness, Celia Thaxter, or her famous island garden (see Isles of Shoals Garden and In the Garden I).

Although disappointed, I was glad for the opportunity to have seen, for myself and at satisfyingly close range, the work of an artist I much admire. By close examination of several canvases I like to think I could see the artist at work; and by that I do not mean that I could see him, in my mind’s eye, sitting at an easel by the seashore. What I mean is that, if I looked closely at the medium, the very paint itself, I believe I could see evidence of Hassam’s own thoughts. Bristle traces told of forceful movements in some areas and of delicate strokes in others. Could thought and emotion be inferred in the varied topography of colored emulsion? I like to think so.

S. J. Gould once wrote The real and the replica are effectively alike in all but our abstract knowledge of authenticity, yet we feel awe in the presence of bone once truly clothed in dinosaur flesh and mere interest in fiberglass of identical appearance. Seeing Hassam’s work was, for me at least, bone once truly clothed in dinosaur flesh.


8 thoughts on “1° of separation

  1. I like that deep analysis of an artist’s intentions. For some, just to look at a picture is to be satisfied- and that’s fine, of course, but trying to eek out meaning and clarity is more of a challenge, more fun and ultimately more rewarding. I love the colours in your ocean and rocks shot.

    • Thanks Jenny. I haven’t viewed many exhibits like this before and it was a real treat to experience this one … and for just the reason I wrote about. I have always appreciated Hassam’s work and delighted in the opportunity to see his individual brush strokes. If I hadn’t been a responsible gallery-goer, I could even have touched them.

  2. Although not clothed in the original flesh, your photograph of the rocky surf is pleasing to view. There really is nothing real about any photograph but the approach can be quite satisfying. As far as paintings go, there is a 3-D quality to the brush strokes, assuming their existence, that is not experienced in a reproduction. Where I work we sell reproductions some of which are printed on canvas with applied brush stroke-like textures. Not at all the same.

  3. When one knows Hassam’s work intimately omissions, of the sort you describe, might feel glaring. I agree that the artist’s energy could be sensed in his brush strokes. The originals are so much more powerful than prints. You have captured with your camera what Hassam captured with his brush and his paints!

Respond to this post if you'd like.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: