American (1859 – 1935)
The Writing Desk, 1915
Cortissoz 54. Etching on wove paper. Signed by the artist with his cipher, titled and inscribed “imp” in pencil.
10 x 7 inches | 25.4 x 17.8 cm
Art Institute Chicago
The National Gallery of Art
An American impressionist, Hassam was more interested in the textural play of light and shadow in the delicate web of etched lines than in documenting a particular sitter. As a result, there is conflicting information about who is represented. Most museums and art dealers cite this as a picture of Hassam’s wife, Kathleen Maude Hassam, sitting at a writing desk at the famous Cos Cob, Connecticut boarding house. The Historical Society of Greenwich, which purchased the house in 1957 from the widow Constant Holley MacRae, says otherwise. According to the Historical Society, this etching captures Constant Holley MacRae, not Mrs. Hassam, at the desk tending to the business of running a boardinghouse. The desk remains in the MacRae house, now museum, situated in the front corner of the main dining room surrounded by tall windows, natural light, and plants.
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