Childe Hassam: Rainy Day, Boston

An in-painting tour

Rainy Day, Boston (1885) by Childe HassamThe Toledo Museum of Art

In Rainy Day, Boston (1885) Childe Hassam chose a thoroughly modern subject:

the wide avenues and new brick row houses of his hometown Boston’s fashionable South End at the intersection of Columbus Avenue (on the left) and Appleton Street.

Modern, too, was the unusual use of empty space in the center foreground of the painting.

The plunging perspective of the streets and the “wide angle” view suggest the influence of photography, still relatively new at the time.

When Childe Hassam painted this picture, he and his wife lived at 282 Columbus Avenue (farther down the street on the right, not visible in the painting).

The tower of the Boston and Providence Railway Station at Park Square emerges out of the rainy mist at the end of Columbus Avenue.

Hassam recalled of the location, “The street was all paved in asphalt, and I used to think it very pretty when it was wet and shining, and caught the reflections of passing people and vehicles.”

Like the train station tower, Hassam painted the overall scene through the atmospheric filter of rain, accentuating the pictorial effects produced by the conditions of light and weather.

The effects of weather and the subject of city life with its to-and-fro bustle...

(notice how Hassam slightly blurs the trotting horses’ legs to capture the idea of movement) were influenced by the French Impressionists.

Hassam had been to Europe in 1883, where he had encountered French Impressionism and had seen the new appearance of Paris with its wide boulevards created by Baron Haussmann for Napoleon III.

But for Hassam, his real subject was what he called "the movements of humanity in the street."

He declared, "I am never tired of observing them in every-day life, as they hurry through the streets on business or saunter down the promenade on pleasure. Humanity in motion is a continual study to me.”

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Toledo Museum of Art
Toledo, Ohio

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