18 January 2016

Boston Common at Twilight

Yesterday was the first snow of the season. In honour of the occasion, I’m taking a look at a favourite winter painting.
When I lived in Boston, I spent many hours at the Museum of Fine Arts. “At Dusk (Boston Common at Twilight)” by the American Impressionist Childe Hassam was one of my favourite paintings. Today, looking at it instantly conquers up a nostalgic mix of memories of both Boston and winter snow.
Here we see a mother with her two children feeding the sparrows on the Tremont Street Mall in Boston Common (a handy location for Hassam as it was across the street from his studio). This wide promenade in the Common, lined with elm trees on one side and Tremont Street on the other, was created for Bostonians to have a place to take a stroll, perhaps in the afternoon or on a Sunday dressed up in church finery. So refined.
While the site looks different today—the promenade was broken up with the addition of two subway entrances—it’s still recognizable as the Boston Common I’ve walked through so many times. What’s interesting to note is that the Common Hassam painted reflected changes that had occurred during his time as well; by the mid-1880s an increase in commerce in the area had resulted in new buildings and streets crowded with trolley cars and carriages.
I particularly love the light in the painting from the pink warmth of the setting sun behind the trees to the orange glow from the windows in the buildings. As for the snow, Hassam painted a very accurate depiction of snow that’s been walked upon. Looking at that path, I know all too well that by the next day it would have turned into a sheet of ice to be traversed at your own risk. Oh, winter in Boston. How beautiful (and dangerous) you could be.


  1. Lovely painting. We are vacationing in Boston this May and a trip to the museum is on our list. I'll be sure to look for "your" painting.
    Stay warm.

    1. Have a great trip to Boston. And if you haven't been before, make sure and visit the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum across the way from the MFA as well.



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