The Goldfish Window
oil on canvas
34 3/8 in. x 50 5/8 in. (87.31 cm x 128.59 cm)
Childe Hassam, for more than twenty years one of the country's leading Impressionist painters, began The Goldfish Window at the artists' colony in Cos Cob, Connecticut, in the summer of 1915 or 1916 and finished it in his New York studio in 1916. Hassam worked periodically at Cos Cob between 1894 and 1923, often staying at the famed Holley House, the gathering place for artists. Like a number of other members of the Cos Cob group, Hassam spent winters painting and exhibiting in New York and occasionally returned to France to renew his acquaintance with European styles. His 1910 trip to Paris, while reinforcing his commitment to the impressionists' focus on the effects of light, also renewed his interest in classicism and traditional formal problems. These concerns are paramount in a group of paintings, begun at about the time Hassam went abroad, that came to be known as the Windows series, The Goldfish Window is one of the most successful renderings of the theme.
In these paintings, a contemplative young woman is posed in front of a large window in a handsomely furnished interior, generally with a still-life arrangement on a table beside her. Sunshine pours in, backlighting the figure and creating a halo around her that adds to her ethereal beauty. Most of the Windows pictures were staged in Hassam's Manhattan studio. The Goldfish Window is unusual for having been painted at the Holley House; one of the summer colony's art students may have posed for the picture. The loose kimono in which the model is dressed may have been a studio prop of Hassam's, for other figures in the series wear similar robes. Yet it also reflects the general taste for aestheticism at Cos Cob, where students aspired to Oriental elegance, dressing up in kimonos and practicing flower arranging and tea ceremonies. The combination of Oriental objects (not the least of which is the glass bowl, filled with giant goldfish) with American antiques-the ladder-back, rush-seated chair and mid-eighteenth century, country-type table-is furthermore a reflection of Hassam's Boston roots. Just at this time, such Boston school painters as Frank Benson (q.v.) and Edmund Tarbell (q.v.) were painting similarly contrived, elegantly appointed interiors, with their typically Boston mix of New England antiques and Oriental objets d'art.
Hassam painted the last of the Windows pictures about 1920. They had been an important source of income and critical acclaim for him, winning prizes and selling quickly, quite a number of them to museums. In a 1927 interview, he described his interest in compositions such as these in purely formal terms: "[I enjoyed] using…figures with…flowers in an arrangement to make a beautiful combination of color and line." But as The Goldfish Window makes clear, these are also paintings of mood: the contrast between the brilliant, sunlit garden and the shadowy interior, painted in cool tones, reinforces the contemplative mood of the figure. The carefully structured room suggests both security and confinement, while the model's wistful gaze directs the viewer's eye to the relative freedom of the garden beyond.
Ulrich W. Hiesinger. Childe Hassam: American Impressionist. Munich and New York: Prestel-Verlag, 1994. P.148.
1963-1965 "American Impressionists: Two Generations." Organzied by the American Federation of Arts, New York, NY. Traveled to: Fort Lauderdale Art Center, Fort Lauderdale, FL, Oct. 1 - 22, 1963; Brooks Memorial Art Gallery, Memphis, TN, Nov. 5 - 26, 1963; Cummer Gallery of Art, Jacksonville, FL, Dec. 10 - 31, 1963; Delaware Art Center, Wilmington, DE, Jan. 14 - Feb. 4, 1964; Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, Feb. 18 - March 10, 1964; Evansville Public Museum, Evansville, IN, March 24 - April 14, 1964; Roanoke Fine Arts Center, Roanoke, VA, May 4 - May 25, 1964; Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, B.C., Canada, Sept. 3 - 20, 1964; Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Fredericton, N.B., Canada, Oct. 7 - 27, 1964; Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, Nov. 12 - 19, 1964; Norman MacKensie Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, Dec. 16, 1964 - Jan. 10, 1965; Univeristy of Newfoundland, St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada, Jan. 27 - Feb. 14, 1965; London Public Library & Art Museum, London, Ontario, Canada, March 3 - 21, 1965; Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Victoria, B.C., Canada, April 7 - May 2, 1965.
1972 Currier Gallery of Art, Manchester, NH, "Buried Treasure." Jan. 15 - Feb. 20.
1974 Nashua Arts & Science Center, Nashua, NH, "Childe Hassam: A Sampling from the Collection of the Currier Gallery of Art." Jan. 11 - 31.
1974 Currier Gallery of Art, Manchester, NH, "American Art Since 1914." June 15 - Sept. 8.
1976 Shipped from Currier, Oct.12,1976, for rental to The Merchants Savings Bank, Hampshire Plaza, Manchester, NH.
1985 Danforth Museum, Framingham, MA, "The Ten." May 5 - June 30.
1986 Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, ME, "Masterpieces from the Currier Gallery of Art." Sept. 11 - Nov. 2.
1987-1988 Florence Griswold Museum, Old Lyme, CT, "Childe Hassam in Connecticut." Dec. 4, 1987 - Jan. 10, 1988.
1993 Currier Gallery of Art, Manchester, NH, "American Impressionist Painting." Aug. 31 - Nov. 28.
1995-1997 "American Art from the Currier Gallery of Art." Organized by the Currier Gallery of Art and the American Federation of Arts. Traveled to: Orlando Museum of Art, Orlando, FL, Dec. 3, 1995 - Jan. 28, 1996; Society of the Four Arts, Palm Beach, FL, Mar. 15 - Apr. 7, 1996; Art Museum of Western Virginia, Roanoke, VA, Aug. 10 - Oct. 13, 1996; The Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis, TN, Feb. 2 - Mar. 30, 1997; Frye Art Museum, Seattle, WA, Apr. 25 - June 22, 1997; Currier Gallery of Art, Manchester, NH, July 18 - Sept. 8, 1997, cat. no. 28.
2001 "The Cos Cob Art Colony: Impressionists on the Connecticut Shore." Organzied by the National Academy of Design, New York, NY. Traveled to: National Academy of Design, New York, NY, Feb. 13 - May 31; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX, June 17 - Sept. 16.
2004 Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT, "Childe Hassam and Connecticut Impressionism." June 11 - Oct. 3.
2006-2007 Portland Museum of Art, Portland, ME, "Masterpieces from the Currier Museum of Art." Sept. 2006 - Oct. 1, 2007.
2015 Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA, "The Artist's Garden: American Impressionism and the Garden Movement 1887-1920" Feb. 12-May 24, 2015. Traveled to: Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA, June 16 - Sept. 6, 2015.
2017 Currier Museum of Art. "Monet: Pathways to Impressionism" July 1- Nov. 13.
Wife of the artist
William Macbeth, Inc., New York, NY
Purchased by Currier Gallery of Art, 1937