The Athenaeum, Portsmouth


Childe Hassam (1859-1935), The Athenaeum, Portsmouth, etching and drypoint, 1915, signed in pencil with the cypher lower right and inscribed “imp”, also titled in pencil lower left toward the sheet edge. [also signed, titled and dated in the plate, with “Dot”, center left] Printed on an antique Bible paper. Reference: Cortissoz/Clayton 14. In very good condition, with full margins, with the usual drying tack holes Hassam employed when printing personally, 8 1/2 x 6 inches, the sheet 11 7/8 x 9 1/4d inches.

A fine impression of this great rarity, with selectively wiped plate tone highlighting the upper windows of the building, with rich burr from the drypoint work at the left and right sides of the composition.

Cortissoz notes: “Done from nature in Miss Dorothy Whitcomb’s car.”

“The facade of the masterpiece by Charles Bullfinch….This is one of the three buildings by Bullfinch in this beautiful old American Town.” (Cortissoz)

Hassam loved to use old Bible paper for printing when possible; here the verses (from Psalms, CVIII and CIX) are on the left side of the sheet and the rest of the sheet was reserved for commentary.

This is a relatively early etching for Hassam, although he was not young when he created it – he began printmaking in earnest in mid-career, well after he had achieved renown as America’s great impressionist master.



Hassam – The Athenaeum, Portsmouth, the full sheet