Impressionist Childe Hassam came from an old Massachusetts family that arrived in New England in 1631. After his initial trip to Europe in 1883, Hassam painted Boston streetscapes suffused with poetic mood and atmosphere. Exposure to the French Impressionists’ work during an 1886 stay in Paris led to a lightening of his palette, a loosening of his brushwork, and reliance on color to suggest form and pictorial design.
On his third sojourn in Europe, Hassam arrived in France in the spring of 1897 and painted "Pont Royal, Paris" from his hotel on the Quai Voltaire. With great immediacy, this painting captures the activities of the city as seen unfolding below a high window or balcony. The elevated vantage point recalls Monet’s "Boulevard des Capucines," in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City. Yet "Pont Royal" also reveals a distinctive version of Impressionism. Hassam applied the paint rapidly but thinly, sometimes leaving exposed primed canvas as a design element. The high-keyed tonalities, dominated by yellows and greens, brilliantly evoke the vibrancy of early spring. Hassam organized the composition, less spontaneous than it appears, around the central tree, which almost bisects the canvas, and by the perpendicular bands of bridge and sky. "Pont Royal, Paris" won the Temple Gold Medal awarded annually by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.