Tanagra (The Builders, New York)

Media - 1929.6.63 - SAAM-1929.6.63_2 - 134201
Copied Childe Hassam, Tanagra (The Builders, New York), 1918, oil on canvas, 58 3458 58 in. (149.2149.0 cm), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of John Gellatly, 1929.6.63
Free to use

Artwork Details

Tanagra (The Builders, New York)
58 3458 58 in. (149.2149.0 cm)
Credit Line
Gift of John Gellatly
Mediums Description
oil on canvas
  • Cityscape — New York — New York
  • Object — furniture — screen
  • Architecture Interior — detail — window
  • Figure female — knee length
  • Object — flower — narcissus
Object Number

Artwork Description

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