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Tanagra (The Builders, New York)

1918 Childe Hassam Born: Dorchester, Massachusetts 1859 Died: East Hampton, New York 1935 oil on canvas 58 3/4 x 58 5/8 in. (149.2 x 149.0 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of John Gellatly 1929.6.63 Smithsonian American Art Museum
2nd Floor, East Wing


Gallery Label

In Tanagra (The Builders, New York), Childe Hassam painted an ambivalent image of modern life. At the turn of the twentieth century, the skyscraper symbolized all that was dynamic and powerful in America. Architects praised the new towers as symbols of mankind's reach for the heavens. But as the United States grew in power and prestige, the workers who provided the nation's muscle also seemed to threaten Hassam's orderly and prosperous world. The artist had won fame and fortune picturing New York for the delight of its moneyed class; the art, music, and fine manners surrounding this "blond Aryan girl" provided a buffer against the unruliness of America's immigrant society. If the skyscraper represents worldly ambition, the other vertical elements in the painting—the lilies, the Hellenistic figurine, the panels of a beautiful oriental screen—suggest a different kind of aspiration. But in 1918, the refined life this woman pursued in her elegant environment was already under attack by the reality of war and the clamor of a new century.

Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006

Keywords

Cityscape - New York New York

Figure female - knee length

Figure(s) in interior - domestic

Object - art object - sculpture

Object - flower - narcissus

Object - flower - rose

Object - furniture - screen

painting

paint - oil

fabric - canvas

About Childe Hassam

Born: Dorchester, Massachusetts 1859 Died: East Hampton, New York 1935

More works in the collection by
Childe Hassam