Allies Day, May 1917-Childe Hassam

Allies Day, May 1917: Childe Hassam

Allies Day, May 1917 is a 1917 Impressionist painting by American artist Childe Hassam. This work is located in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., United States.

“Allies day”, May 1917 by Childe Hassam commemorates the day that the United States joined its allies in the First World War.

In the painting, three flags are shown: American, British and French. Hassam was excited about the United States joining the French as he was a major Francophile and disliked the Germans.

Childe Hassam is well known for his famed Flags series. There are about thirty paintings in this series, one of which, The Avenue in the Rain, is part of the White House collection. President Obama chose it to be shown in the oval office.

Hassam’s name was often confused as middle eastern but rather is derived from Horsham. He did use it for himself as people assumed he was middle eastern. His signature was first a crescent moon which later became a slash next to his name.

Hassam started as a freelance illustrator. He took life painting classes at the Lowel Institute and the Boston Arts Club. Here, he met Edmund H. Garret who advised him to take a “study trip” to Europe. He would later move to France and study at the Académie Julian.

The Flag series was late in his career by that time had returned to the US for a while. He was considered an “abandoned genius” as he was not so popular until the revived interest in Impressionism in the 60s.

During the 1st world war, Fifth avenue became the Avenue of the Allies. It was to promote selling war bonds. Therefore, the street was decorated with allies’ flags and liberty loan banners. In different paintings of the series, one can see they show different angles of the same street. As this event went on for years, various weather and seasons change with them. On “Allies Day”, May 1917, it seems he is looking through a window on the second floor.

Hassam puts enough detail on the flags that they are recognizable and the main subject. Unlike his contemporaries at the time like Monet who focused on the French point of view. Hassam makes sure that the American flag is identifiable.

Hassam was an avid patriot for his country. From the beginning of the war, he was part of the war relief effort. He even wanted to go to Europe to record the war however was not allowed. He had hope that the series would remain that and sold as a memorial set. Yet, it was sold separately and now is shown separately in various museums.

Childe Hassam is still an obscure name compared to his French Impressionist contemporaries. It might be because his style is quite conservative even for the time. Hassam stayed with his impressionistic style even when European artists started to evolve into Fauvism, Cubism, and many other styles.

Hassam is not known for his nudes which were the staple genre for artists at the time. It makes sense it was until the revival that people craved something more innocent to the art of the 60s. Now, viewers have recently regained an appreciation of Childe Hassam.

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