Daily Art Moment: Childe Hassam

Childe Hassam. Oregon Still Life, 25 x 30 ¼ inches, oil on canvas. A painting of an assortment of fruit laid out on a round, dark brown table, the edges of which are mostly out of frame. At top, at 11 and 12 o’clock, are a glass bowl with a tall stand brimming with yellow apples that sits beside a squat, silver bowl holding green, purple, and red grapes. Just below the glass bowl are more yellow apples, some with a hint of pink. Further down the painting and scattered over the table are deep blueish-purple plums. At three o’clock are a grouping of half dozen peaches and pears set near two half-filled glasses that suggest wine. The painting technique is bold and uses dry brush strokes. Paint is heavily layered, revealing the colors underneath in areas. The table and fruit are set against a background heavily painting with horizontal strokes in muted greens, terra cotta, whites with deep yellow. Image description 2: An overhead view of a silver, wide lipped pan containing a golden cake brimming with plums.

“For #PDXFoodFriday, here is a painting that celebrates the bounty of a Portland garden. It was made by the great American Impressionist Childe Hassam (1859–1935) during his first visit to our city in 1904. He stayed with his friend Charles Erskine Scott Wood (1852–1944), an author, soldier, attorney, and artist, who was one of the founders of the Portland Art Museum in 1892. Wood retained the still life until he gave it to the Museum in 1943 along with a number of other treasures. The fruit was gathered from the grounds of Wood’s house on King’s Hill. The property was donated by the Wood family to the Portland Garden Club and it became the site of their clubhouse and garden.

The prominent Oregon plums in the painting made me think of my grandmother’s plum cake. Although the ones in my recipe came from PAM curator Grace Kook-Anderson’s tree in Northeast Portland, as a child visiting my grandparents’ farm, I was given the responsibility of gathering wild plums for the cake. My reward was getting to lick the mixing spoons and eating that sweet tangy dessert at supper. Although my grandmother had a gas stove in her kitchen, she also had a wood cook stove which she preferred when baking. How she ever regulated it is beyond my imagination, but her plum cake was so much better than mine will ever be! I never got the recipe from her. I’m not sure there was one. She just knew how to make something delicious out of almost nothing. This recipe seeks to reproduce her ‘cake,’ similar to what we call clafoutis today.”

John Goodwin, Major Gifts Officer

Thanks to @ojmche for organizing the hashtag! Other participating orgs: @classroomlawproject @poshinespdx @oregonnikkei @oregonhistoricalsociety @theimmigrantstory @haccm_portland, @portlandchinatownmuseum, Chachalu Tribal Museum, and Cultural Center

Childe Hassam (American, 1859–1935). Oregon Still Life, 1904. Oil on canvas. Gift of Col. C.E.S. Wood in memory of his wife, Nanny Moale Wood, 43.2.4, public domain

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