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Autograph for the Print "Afternoon Shadows"

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Autograph for the Print "Afternoon Shadows"

Artist: Childe Hassam (American, 1859 - 1935)

Date: 1918
Medium: Black lithographic crayon on tan-colored transfer paper
Overall: 7 1/4 × 11 1/16in. (18.4 × 28.1cm)
Inscribed: Recto, lower right (black crayon): "Childe Hassam Sept. 12th 1918"; Verso, top center (graphite): "43"; Lower center (graphite(L "24445"; Lower left (graphite): "MXXX / A20608-1"
Credit Line: Museum Purchase
Object number: 92.18
Text Entries

This work was the source for Hassam’s lithograph Afternoon Shadows, which has been described as one of his most impressionistic prints.(1) It is one of the more than forty lithographs he produced in 1918 of subjects in New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. While most critics who have written about Hassam’s career as a printmaker have favored his etchings, Ernest Haskell noted that his lithographs were “not heavy crudities with impossible black smudges as are so many efforts of our modern lithographers: but light crisp renderings of fearless decision.”(2)

In the summer and early fall of 1918 Hassam was in Gloucester, Massachusetts, where, on September 12, he presumably made the MWPI drawing. By drawing on transfer paper instead of directly on a lithographic stone, Hassam was easily able to work out-of-doors. The completed drawing was then laid face down on the stone and transferred with the aid of a press. This resulted in a lithographic image that was oriented the same way as the MWPI drawing.

Hassam used a black lithographic crayon to make the same type of short, parallel, and hatched strokes that he created in his intaglio prints with an etching needle. Firm strokes delineate the highlights and shadows of the leaves of the large tree at the upper left, the picket fence below it, and the roof of the building in the distance. He made the large shadow in the middle of the design with longer horizontal strokes that reveal the rough texture of the surface upon which he drew.

The MWPI drawing raises the question whether the type of Impressionism that is concerned with light—the sort that blurs the clarity of outlines and disintegrates forms—can be adapted to the graphic arts. Claude Monet believed this was not possible and never made prints.(3) Hassam, on the other hand, invented a black-and-white alternative to his colored brush strokes, which he used in his drawings and prints. The vigorous notational system of the MWPI drawing, its high horizon and deep space, and Hassam’s translation of an out-of-door scene into a black- and-white design of strong tonal contrasts are stylistic characteristics that need to be considered in any study of American Impressionist drawings.


1. Afternoon Shadows was printed by George C. Miller of New York in an edition of fifty-three, presumably sometime before the end of 1918. See Fuller Griffith, The Lithographs of Childe Hassam: A Catalog (New York: Martin Gordon, 1980), 5, 8, and 23, cat. no. 42.

2. Ernest Haskell, “Childe Hassam,” in Nathaniel Pousette-Dart, Childe Hassam (New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1922), ix-x.

3. Jean Leymarie, The Graphic Work of the Impressionists: Manet, Pissarro, Renoir, Cezanne, Sisley (London: Thames and Hudson, 1971), 5-6.


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