We would like to thank the Hassam catalogue raisonné committee for their assistance with cataloguing this work.
This painting will be included in Stuart P. Feld's and Kathleen M. Burnside's forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist's work.
Childe Hassam began his artistic career as an apprentice in the shop of a Boston wood engraver. By July 1882, he was listed in the Boston city directory as “artist” and the bulk of his work during this period consisted of illustrations. Ulrich Hiesinger notes, “Hassam’s commissioned work was paralleled and increasingly overtaken by work done privately in the open air, a practice then considered peculiar by many…” (Childe Hassam: American Impressionist, New York, p. 15) Soon after marrying his wife, Kathleen Maude Doan, in 1884, Hassam relocated to 282 Columbus Avenue and firmly established himself in Boston’s thriving city center. Previously drawn to less developed locales, these new surroundings allowed Hassam to explore the subject of contemporary urban life. Hassam reflected, “The street was paved in asphalt, and I used to think it was very pretty when it was wet and shining, and caught the reflections of passing people and vehicles. I was always interested in the movements of humanity in the street, and I painted my first picture from my window.” (as quoted in Childe Hassam: American Impressionist, p. 21)
While Hassam was living in Boston for his early career, he subscribed to the principles of tonalism. Concentrating on painting the effects of atmosphere, he created realistic, low-keyed images of Boston streets at twilight, on a rainy day or illuminated by artificial light. Hassam recalled, “In Boston, among [my] earliest subjects were the city streets…scenes with wet pavements, which they say I invented. Nobody had ever done that before.” (as quoted in D.F. Hoppes, Childe Hassam, New York, 1982, p. 22) While French artists such as Claude Monet had already focused on this effect, the American art scene Hassam knew at the time had not exposed him to this conceit.
Rainy Day, Boston is a view near the artist’s home. The buildings, most prominently the clock tower of the Boston and Providence Railroad Depot, provide both familiarity and a sense of perspective for the composition and create a backdrop for the bustling scene. As carriages and trolley cars move along Columbus Avenue toward Boston Common, pedestrians can be seen along the sidewalks huddling beneath their umbrellas. The present work typifies the artist’s predilection for reflection and his use of variations in tone to capture subtle displays of light and atmospheric qualities. Rainy Day, Boston is very closely related and perhaps served as the inspiration for Hassam’s Columbus Avenue, Rainy Day (1885, Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, Massachusetts).