Cliff Rock - Appledore

Childe Hassam (American, 1859-1935)

Currently on View in K209
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  • Hassam’s broken brushwork deftly mixes a variety of angles and textures. Dark and rough vertical brushstrokes re-create the steepness of the cliff face where the tide rises. Lighter brushstrokes dash diagonally around the contours of the top of the cliff.
  • This treatment gives the rock a sense of bulk and weight, hallmarks of the American treatment of Impressionism. They contrast with the French Impressionists’ tendency to dissolve volume into flat surfaces of color and brushwork.
  • Hassam spent his summers painting along the Atlantic seaboard. He often painted the rocky shores of Appledore Island, off the Maine coast, an area frequented by many of the day’s leading artists, writers, and musicians.
Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)

Like many American artists of the late 1800s, Childe Hassam studied in Paris, where he was exposed to Impressionist works firsthand. The preeminent American practitioner of the French Impressionist style, he employed European techniques to convey European sensibilities. His work is characterized by brilliant light, vivid color, and brushwork that articulates the forms within the scene, rather than dissolving subject matter into an array of strokes in the manner of the French Impressionists.

After returning to the United States, Hassam spent his summers painting along the Atlantic seaboard. Over the course of two decades, beginning in 1889, he returned to the rocky shores of Appledore, one of nine islands comprising the Isles of Shoals, located off the coasts of New Hampshire and Maine. With its broken brushwork, craggy shore, and broad expanse of sea, Cliff Rock-Appledore exudes a spirit like that of Claude Monet's coastal scenes of the mid-1880s. Hassam displays a confident, free handling, varying his brushwork from the loose treatment of the sun-bleached rocks, to the overlapping strokes and vibrant hues of the foreground water, to the more even texture and tone of the distant horizon. Hassam's emphasis on realism and the solidity of forms is characteristic of the American style of Impressionism.

Before the day of the automobile [Appledore] was a famous summer resort. . . . In those far-off days I painted there . . . many pleasant summers.
-Childe Hassam, 1929

Curatorial Summary

Born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, in 1859, Frederick Childe Hassam pursued art as a teenager and worked in a wood-engraving shop, making the original drawings from which the engravings were made. His illustrations appeared in Harper’s, Scribner’s, and Century magazines, which provided a level of financial security that he sustained throughout his career. Hassam spent three years in France, where he enrolled in the Académie Julian in Paris and became aware of the French Impressionists.

Hassam favored New England coastal scenes, and the Impressionist treatment of this breeze-swept expanse of sea and sun-drenched rocks on the coast of Maine shows the artist’s technical skill in handling pure color. The paint gives the illusion of scintillating light, and his work is considered the purest example of the American Impressionist movement.


Adelson, Warren, Jay Cantor, and William H. Gerdts. Childe Hassam, Impressionist. New York, NY: Abbeville Press, 1999.

Weinberg, H. Barbara, Elizabeth E. Barker, Elizabeth Block, Elizabeth Broun, Kathleen M. Burnside, Stephanie L. Herdrich, Erica E. Hirshler, Megan Holloway, Susan G. Larkin, Lisa Miller, Kimberly Orcutt, Dana Pilson, and Carol Troyen. Childe Hassam, American Impressionist. Edited by John P. O’Neill. New York, NY: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004.

Purchased from the Inaugural Exhibition by the John Herron Art Institute, Indianapolis, Indiana, now the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, in 1906.

Object Information

Childe Hassam (American, 1859-1935)
creation date
oil on canvas
29 x 36 in. (canvas)
40 x 48 in. (framed)
accession number
credit line
John Herron Fund
Public Domain
American Painting and Sculpture to 1945

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