The Billboards, New York

Childe Hassam (1859-1935), The Billboards, New York, etching and drypoint, 1916, signed with the cipher in pencil lower right and annotated “imp” [also signed, dated and titled New York in the plate]. Reference: Cortissoz 87. In good condition, slight light toning, barely perceptible printer’s crease center, with full/wide margins ( the usual pin holes for drying all around), 4 5/8 x 6 1/8, the sheet 9 3/8 x 12 inches.

A fine delicately printed and atmospheric impression, printed on a wove paper with very carefully placed plate tone. The clouds at the top in particular have been left with a layer of plate tone, the darkening of the clouds consistent with the reflections on the street indicating that it has just rained (and two of the tiny figures on the street are carrying an open umbrella).

The upper left billboard reads: The Hassam Book, Scribner (see detailed illustration). These letters do not appear in the proof used for the  Cortissoz illustration. Cortissoz notes that several states of The Billboards were made, but does not identify them.  It appears that our impression represents a state in which Hassam has entered these letters. In the impression of this print owned by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, shown in the Metropolitan Museum of Art 1977 exhibit on Hassam, references to Hassam’s dealers E.A. Milch and Keppel are shown on the billboards, so apparently Hassam used this print as a vehicle to enter personal or specific references at different points in the print’s evolution.

The Billboards was done from an 1896 drawing made in New York City, Broadway and 55-56th streets, thus accounting for the horse-drawn carriages instead of the motorized vehicles that would be seen on Broadway twenty years later.