Frederick Childe Hassam was a prominent landscape and cityscape painter and one of the most successful of American Impressionists. Born into a prominent Massachusetts family on Oct. 17, 1859, he went to Paris in 1886 for three years and fell under the spell of French impressionists, Monet and Pissarro, and the English watercolorists, Turner and Constable. In the late 1880s, Hassam began summering on Appledore Island, one of the tiny islands of the coasts of Maine and New Hampshire. He was attracted by the brilliant light and rugged topography of the region, but also became captivated and inspired by a quaint, opulent and informal garden created by Celia Thaxter . Thaxter was the daughter of a lighthouse keeper and an admired poet and journalist who grew up among the Isles of the shoals and enjoyed a productive literary-artistic partnership with Hassam for many years.
“Celia Thaxter’s Garden” one of a series of oil paintings, watercolors and pastels of Celia Thaxter’s garden and the Island that Hassam recreated during his frequent visits. In the garden scene, Hassam offers an enticing glimpse of wooden stairs and a wild garden on Appledore Island. In the background a figure leans against the porch rail, shaded by the leaves of hops. Hassam uses rich colors in bright sunlight to capture the natural beauty of the garden. More than fifty flower varieties can be found nodding in the salty summer breeze, including hollyhocks, poppies, pansies, peonies and phlox. This cheerful painting is overflowing with energy and seaside atmosphere. His light, sparkling palette and broken brushstrokes and subjects are unmistakably French-inspired, although his realism is unquestionably American. As an American Impressionist, he never stressed light vibrations to the detriment of form. In this as in many other of his landscapes, nostalgia for the good old days, a widespread sentiment in American culture at turn of the 20th century, is felt. He often painted the same landscape in a variety of moods from a bright sunlit day, to a somber moonlight view of the same landscape.