At the Isles of Shoals, among the ledges of the largest island, Appledore lies the small garden which in the following pages I have endeavored to describe. Ever since I could remember anything, flowers have been like dear friends to me, comforters, inspirers, powers to uplift and to cheer. A lonely child, living on the lighthouse island ten miles away from the mainland, every blade of grass that sprang out of the ground, every humblest weed, was precious in my sight, and I began a little garden when not more than five years old. From this, year after year, the larger one, which has given so much pleasure to so many people, has grown. The first small bed at the lighthouse island contained only Marigolds, pot Marigolds, fire-colored blossoms which were the joy of my heart and the delight of my eyes. This scrap of the garden, literally not more than a yard square, with its barbaric splendors of color, I worshiped like any Parsee… writes Celia Thaxter, the lover of gardening, flowers, and the good friend of painter Childe Hassam. Poppies on the Isles of Shoals is one of his many paintings celebrating the flora of this unique group of nine small, rocky islands off the coast of New Hampshire, in the Atlantic. https://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/thaxter/garden/garden.html
Imagine a summer day in the company of novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne, poets Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and artists Childe Hassam, and William Morris Hunt. Now add conversations on art, and music, recitations of poetry, intellectual “arguments,” and gardening “lessons.” The result is… a summer day at Appledore House, a family-run Hotel on Appledore Island, off the coast of Maine, where every summer Childe Hassam and a group of musicians, writers, and artists mad an informal colony as guests of Celia Thaxter, poet extraordinaire, passionate gardener and Hotel proprietor. https://americanexperience.si.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Hassam.pdf
For three decades (between 1886 and 1916), Childe Hassam was perfectly happy to spend his Summers at Appledore House painting, en plain air, Celia Thaxter’s Hotel garden, and the rugged landscape of the Isles of Shoals. His body of work at Appledore remains a pinnacle of American Art of the Impressionist movement. He was particularly fond of painting Babb’s Cove from the shaded piazza of Thaxter’s cottage. He routinely set up his easel there to paint the vista, which included the brilliant field of Iceland poppies cascading beyond the borders of her famous flower garden. As Thaxter wrote in 1894, “How beautiful they are, these grassy, rocky slopes shelving gradually to the sea, with here and there a mass of tall, blossoming grass softly swaying in the warm wind against the peaceful, pale blue water!” https://www.incollect.com/articles/american-impressionist-childe-hassam-and-the-isles-of-shoals and https://www.pem.org/exhibitions/american-impressionist-childe-hassam-and-the-isles-of-shoals
The National Gallery Poppies on the Isles of Shoals painting of1891 is my favorite! The painting, as Franklin Kelly wrote, presents a broad vista moving from a dense foreground of flowers to a background of rocks, water, and sky. The poppies that spread beyond Celia Thaxter’s garden were the artist’s favorite subject. They cover the foreground with brilliant, warm hues of green and red in wavy brushstrokes. For the rest of the painting, the middle and background is painted in cooler tones of blue, purple, and white for the rocks and water, and pale blue for the sky. Hassam’s brushwork is equally varied, ranging from lush red and white strokes defining the flowers to long drags of pigment suggesting the multihued surfaces of the rocks. The artist’s painting is a tour de force of Impressionistic landscape painting en plein air. https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.103172.html
For anyone accustomed to academic landscape painting, seeing one of Hassam’s Isles of Shoals paintings was, as one reviewer wrote, “like taking off a pair of black spectacles that one has been compelled to wear out of doors, and letting the full glory of nature’s sunlight color pour in upon the retina.” https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.103172.html
For a PowerPoint titled 15 Paintings by Childe Hassam depicting the Isles of Shoals, please… Check HERE!
An original UNC-TV Documentary (27.55min) exploring the North Carolina Museum of Art exhibit of American impressionist painter Childe Hassam. The documentary focuses on Hassam’s work on Appledore Island over the course of thirty years… https://www.pbs.org/video/unc-tv-presents-childe-hassam-and-isles-shoals/