Born on 17 October 1859, Frederick Childe Hassam was a pioneering American painter. He brought French Impressionism to the USA alongside leading artists such as John Henry Twachtman, William Merritt Chase, and Mary Cassatt. As a result, the course of American art changed forever.
Frederick Childe Hassam grew up in the historic Dorchester neighborhood of Boston. The family lived on Olney Street, Meeting House Hill.
Hassam’s father (Frederick Fitch Hassam) worked as a cutlery businessperson. He also enjoyed a diverse collection of art and antiques. Hassam’s mother (Rosa Delia Hawthorne) shared ancestry with the famed American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Due to his dark skin tone, many compatriots joked that Hassam had middle eastern descent. He enjoyed these rumors and played on them throughout his life.
From the mid-1880s onwards, Hassam painted an Islamic crescent moon next to his signature. He also took the nickname “Muley” (derived from the Arabic “Mawla” meaning “master”).
Hassam proved his artistic talents at an early age. He produced watercolor paintings at school, also excelling in boxing. However, a major fire swept through Boston in November 1872, destroying Hassam’s father’s business.
Frederick Childe consequently left school to support his family. He secured a job with Little Brown & Company (publishers). During this time, Hassam studied wood engraving. Working with a respected engraver (George Johnson), he honed his skills and created many commercial newspaper engravings.
Hassam also started painting properly around this time. Continuing trends from his school days, he produced watercolor artworks of outdoor scenes.
From 1879 onwards, Hassam created his first oil paintings.