American Impressionist painter Frederick Childe Hassam (1859-1935) visited Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, for one day in April 1926. He created at least four known sketches of Harpers Ferry during that visit – three watercolors and one pencil drawing.
“Amazingly, in 2022, the Huntington Museum of Art has been able to purchase two of the known watercolors created by Childe Hassam on that April day in West Virginia nearly 100 years ago,” said Huntington Museum of Art Executive Director Geoffrey K. Fleming.
In November 2022, HMA purchased Hassam’s Harpers Ferry, No. 2 watercolor on paper from a private collection through Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc. in New York, N.Y.
“Hassam completed at least four known works, one of which we purchased from the American Academy of Arts & Letters in March of this year. The Fogg Art Museum at Harvard has another. We do not know the whereabouts of the others,” Fleming said.
The newly acquired watercolor will join five oil paintings, the 1926 watercolor titled Harpers Ferry, and five prints, all by Hassam, in the Huntington Museum of Art’s permanent collection, including Lincoln’s Birthday Flags – 1918, which is one of the highlights of HMA’s Daywood Collection.
“Our already strong collection of works by Hassam has increased greatly with this new purchase, and it only seems appropriate that this watercolor created in West Virginia should have a permanent home here at the Huntington Museum of Art,” Fleming said.
The newly acquired watercolor titled Harpers Ferry, No. 2, which was exhibited in New York and Washington, D.C., with other Hassam works in 1927, highlights the history of the West Virginia town.
“With Harpers Ferry, No. 2 the artist focuses our attention on the stone obelisk which commemorates the original location of ‘John Brown’s Fort,’ the engine house where abolitionist John Brown made his last stand during the historic raid on the Federal Armory at Harpers Ferry in 1859,” said John Farley, HMA Senior Curator / Exhibition Designer.
“Although Brown and his small band of supporters did not succeed in their attempt to spark a nationwide armed uprising of enslaved people, his belief that the American institution of slavery could only be destroyed by violence would be confirmed two years later with the eruption of the Civil War in 1861,” Farley continued.
The recent acquisition differs from other depictions of the town of Harpers Ferry in HMA’s permanent collection.
“Hassam’s emphasis on this aspect of the history of Harpers Ferry results in a composition very different than the picturesque confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers so typically represented in views of Harpers Ferry,” Farley explained. “This newly acquired watercolor stands on its own as a significant work with deep connections to our state’s tumultuous origins, created by an acclaimed American artist. It also makes a terrific complement to any of the more scenic views of Harpers Ferry we have.”
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West Virginia residents may obtain a summary of the registration and financial documents from the Secretary of State, State Capitol, Charleston, WV 25305. Registration does not imply endorsement.