Among Hassam’s best-known works are his canvases of Fifth Avenue in New York, patriotically draped with flags on different occasions during World War I. One of these, The Avenue in the Rain (1917), is part of the White House’s art collection in Washington D.C. and usually hangs in the Oval Office.
‘The man who’ll go down to posterity is the man who paints his own time and the scenes of everyday life around him,' Hassam said.
He was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1859. As a young man, he apprenticed to a local wood engraver, before starting work as a freelance illustrator for a number of magazines. One of his most popular early paintings is the cityscape, At Dusk (Boston Common at Twilight) (1885–86), today found in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
In 1886, Hassam travelled to Paris, where he studied at the famed Academie Julian and exhibited at consecutive Salon exhibitions. By the time he returned to his homeland three years later, his style had been transformed for good under the influence of Impressionism — it was now marked by broken brushwork and a bright palette.
In the late 1890s, settled in New York, Hassam became a leading member of a group of American Impressionists called 'The Ten', along with the likes of Julian Alden Weir and John Henry Twachtman.
He took regular summer breaks in New England, in picturesque spots such as Cos Cob, Connecticut; Gloucester, Massachusetts; and Appledore, on the Isles of Shoals, off the coast of New Hampshire. All of these proved a rich inspiration for his painting.
Hassam received several awards in the 1920s, including the Gold Medal of Honor for lifetime achievement from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He died in 1935, aged 75. He was the subject of a major retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2004.