Diamond Cove, Appledore
Diamond Cove, Appledore, 1907
Graphite, pastel, and black chalk on wove paper
18.1 x 23.8 cm (7 1/8 x 9 3/8 inches)
Gift of Mrs. Gustav Radeke 21.119
Hassam’s ability to interpret the atmospheric effects of nature is perhaps most evident in the many paintings he made of the rocky coves of the Isles of Shoals, located off the coast of New Hampshire’s border with Maine. Through his friendship with the poet Celia Thaxter, Hassam became a frequent summer visitor to the island of Appledore, where Thaxter’s home served as a gathering place for artists. Around 1888 Hassam built a studio on Appledore, and in the ensuing summers applied his brush to recreating impressions of the flowers that filled Thaxter’s gardens and home. His noteworthy collaboration with Thaxter, an illustrated book entitled An Island Garden, appeared in 1894, the year of the writer’s death. The heightened optical perception and skill apparent in his watercolors for the book revealed an intense and personal awareness of nature that flourished in this environment. When he returned to Appledore in the late 1890s, he brought his maturity and concentration to a study of the island’s more abstract geological beauty, and initiated a series of paintings of its coastal ledges and inlets. Sketching on site, Hassam drew Diamond Cove, Appledore on July 23, 1907, from a spot on the southwest side of the island where he also painted in oil. He made the sketch in black pencil and colored chalks on the inside of a stiff paper folder bearing the monogram and address of Augustus H. Tennis of New York City. An oil painting of this view, entitled Isles of Shoals, was also completed in 1907.
In graphite and black chalk, Hassam mapped out the drawing’s composition, devising a reverse S-curve to lead the eye from the transparent waters of the cove to the rugged contours of the cliffs. He sketched the cliff walls and recesses with a close up-and-down stroke, connecting them with a line that concludes in an anchoring scribble at lower left. The rocky mass ascends to the top of the sheet where it is intersected by a sliver of the mainland, just visible on the horizon. Allowing the buff color of the paper to suggest the earthy tints of the rocks, Hassam applied a palette of blues and yellow-greens to represent the lively movement of light on the water and the growth of algae on the cliffs. He used white chalk to heighten the reflected brilliance of their rocky surfaces and to pick out stones in the shallow water near the shore. A comparison of Diamond Cove, Appledore, with the related oil painting of this site reveals Hassam’s full grasp of his subject in its preliminary stages. The drawing contains the complete armature for the larger composition, from the slender ribbon of sky to the foreground’s rocky perch. On Appledore Hassam drew from life, recreating—even in a quick sketch—the visual experiences that were among the richest and most meaningful of his career.
Maureen C. O’Brien, et al., “American Drawings and Watercolors Catalogue,” http://risdmuseum.org/MANAUL.