Work on Monday: Childe Hassam’s East Hampton Elms

This week, Work on Monday looks back at the work of Impressionist master Childe Hassam, who often painted on the East End. The 19th century artist’s large oil “The East Hampton Elms” was sold for $288,000 at a recent Shannon’s Fine Art Auctioneers auction on April 25. It was the top earner of 156 works auctioned that day.

Work on Monday is a weekly look at one piece of art related to the East End, usually by a Hamptons or North Fork artist, living or dead, created in any kind of media. Join the conversation by posting your thoughts in the comments below and email suggestions for a future Work on Monday here.

The East Hampton Elms
Childe Hassam (1859-1935, Dorchester, MA)
Oil on canvas
57.5 x 72.25 inches, 1920

Hassam’s “The East Hampton Elms” is an important painting for the artist, mostly due to the fact that he only painted two other pieces at such a grand size. Depicting the great elm trees that still stand along both sides of East Hampton’s Main Street, the painting offers a look at the village as it was nearly 100 years ago. It’s shocking how little, and how much, has changed.

Before even considering Hassam’s glowing, painterly strokes and his picture as a work of art, it’s difficult to ignore the painting’s significance as a record of yesteryear, especially for East Hampton residents and neighbors. What is now a paved road jammed with summer traffic and expensive European cars, was a shady but wide dirt thoroughfare inhabited by just two lonely horse-drawn carriages. Yet the storefronts, trees and shape of the sidewalk remain nearly identical as they appear today. Even the view down Main Street—a distant white flagpole overlooking Town Pond—could have been captured this morning.

Only after absorbing this window into history, can one enjoy the painter’s soft touch, his lovely grasp of depth and space, and delicate pastel colors that blend to create shadows and highlights along the dusty road.

The East Hampton Elms” is a quiet composition and a soothing, almost pastoral moment despite its Main Street setting. This work is a visual departure from the popular urban-based flag paintings that made Hassam so famous. In fact, it was the money from those very paintings that allowed the artist to buy his home in East Hampton and paint the village’s famous elms that same year.

To see more auctions by Shannon’s Fine Art Auctioneers, visit shannons.com.

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