Gift of Mrs. Childe Hassam, 1940.95
After studying in Paris from 1886 to 1889, the American Impressionist Childe Hassam moved to New York City and developed a technique that employed quick lines and blurred details in prints and paintings of urban environments. Hassam blends the inked etched line with the white of the paper to depict snow-covered rooftops and smoke rising from chimneys. The image suggests an atmosphere both of calm, through the remote viewpoint, and of contained restlessness, with the density of smoke and buildings.
Like etcher Joseph Pennell and photographers Paul Haviland and Karl Struss, Hassam chose buildings rather than people to represent city life, a decision that was the catalyst for this unique rooftop perspective that illustrates the changing city through its new architectural program of skyscrapers. The location Hassam chose for the image, 57th Street, was the site of an art school, galleries, and a variety of art studios, making it a center for the teaching, learning, and—as exemplified by this work—the creation of art.