Hassam exhibit celebrates Celia Thaxter’s garden.
Lately I have been reading about poet, painter, and gardener Celia Thaxter (1835-1894).
She grew up on Appledore, one of the Isles of Shoals, a group of small, rocky islands in the Gulf of Maine six miles off the coast of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. For many years she worked on the island called Appledore at her father’s hotel.
Thaxter’s most famous book has to be An island Garden that includes wonderful details about her garden as well as the artwork of American impressionist Childe Hassam (1859-1935).
When I heard there was a new exhibit of Hassam’s work nearby, I had to go.
So a few days ago I drove to see the exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts.
First invited by Thaxter in the late 1880s, Hassam continued to travel from Boston to the Isles of Shoals in the summer for over thirty years.
There he painted.
The PEM writes in its promotional material for this exhibition, “Hassam created a body of work that remains a pinnacle of American impressionism.”
This is the first exhibition in more than 25 years to focus on Hassam’s paintings of the Isles of Shoals.
The exhibition called American Impressionist: Childe Hassam and the Isles of Shoals is the result of a collaboration between geologists, marine scientists and curators that led to new discoveries about Hassam’s paintings and artistic practice.
I saw more than forty oil paintings and watercolors dating from the late 1880s to 1912, including of course Hassam’s paintings of Thaxter and her garden.
I enjoyed the exhibit. As I walked around, I could hear sounds as if the ocean were hitting the rocks at the Isles of Shoals. That bit of audio provided an engaging way to involve the visitor in the exhibit.
The Publisher’s Note in Thaxter’s book, first published in 1894, says, “The paintings commissioned for An Island Garden are considered by many to be the most beautiful of Childe Hassam’s career and as important to American Impressionism as Monet’s paintings of his garden are to French Impressionism.”
What a treat to see the paintings that day in Peabody.