Organized to coincide with the retrospective Childe Hassam, American Impressionist, this exhibition highlights works by Hassam's contemporaries in media in which he also excelled. James McNeill Whistler, Mary Cassatt, Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, and Maurice Prendergast are among the artists featured in this selection of about fifty-five works from the Museum's permanent collection. Because works on paper are sensitive to light and can be shown only for short periods of time, the exhibition offers a rare opportunity to view seldom-seen examples in many media. Also included are important recent acquisitions, such as Whistler's Variations in Violet and Grey—Market Place, Dieppe, 1885.
The exhibition is arranged thematically into three sections: the country, the city and built environment, and women in domestic settings. Each section includes watercolors, pastels and other drawings, and prints in a variety of media.
Along with the increasing sophistication of American artists in the late nineteenth century came an interest in using media that had either been forgotten or ignored. While experimenting in such "old" media as etching and pastel, the artists also helped professionalize watercolor, a medium previously associated principally with amateurs. Among other revelations in the exhibition is the level of experimentation engaged in by American artists in this period, and the suitability of the media to their subjects and technical interests. Etching, for example, provided graphic freedom, pastels were portable, and watercolors—also portable—were perfect for expressing the new interest in effects of sunlight.
Many of the artists represented in this exhibition were associated with—and, in some cases, were close friends of—Childe Hassam. Several of them were members of Ten American Painters, the exhibiting organization that Hassam helped to found in 1897. And others—most notably Homer, Whistler, and Cassatt—represented the earlier generation of artists that influenced Hassam.
Childe Hassam, American Impressionist, on view June 10–September 12, 2004, is the first major retrospective of the artist held in a museum since 1972.