Avenue of the Allies: Brazil, Belgium

* Nearly 20,000 images of artworks the museum believes to be in the public domain are available to download on this site. Other images may be protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. By using any of these images you agree to LACMA's Terms of Use.

Avenue of the Allies: Brazil, Belgium

United States, 1918
Paintings
Oil on canvas
36 5/16 x 24 5/16 in. (92.1 x 61.75 cm)
Mr. and Mrs. William Preston Harrison Collection (29.18.1)
Not currently on public view

Curator Notes

The Preparedness Parade down Fifth Avenue in New York on May 13, 1916, demonstrated America’s readiness to fight in World War I and kindled Hassam’s patriotic fervor, prompting him to begin his famous...
The Preparedness Parade down Fifth Avenue in New York on May 13, 1916, demonstrated America’s readiness to fight in World War I and kindled Hassam’s patriotic fervor, prompting him to begin his famous series of flag paintings. By the end of the war he would create approximately thirty oil paintings of New York bedecked with displays of banners and flags as part of the home-front effort to inspire patriotism and help raise funds for war relief efforts. Fifth Avenue was often decorated, and for the Fourth Liberty Loan Drive in the autumn of 1918 it became known as the Avenue of the Allies, each block from Twenty-fourth to Fifty-eighth streets being devoted to the flags of a particular Allied country. Hassam painted five pictures of Fifth Avenue during this celebration. In the museum’s version the artist depicted the block between Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth streets, on which Brazil was represented. The flag of that country, a yellow diamond on a ground of bright green with a blue orb in the center, appears not only as the large flag waving in the center of the composition but also directly to the right and in a large grouping of flags to the left. The block south of Brazil was devoted to the British Empire and the one north to Belgium, so Hassam shows the New Zealand flag flying in the foreground and the flag of Belgium, a threebanded design with black on the top (Hassam always used dark blue), yellow in the center, and red on the bottom, flying behind the flag of Brazil. The flag of the United States also appears several times, hanging from buildings and in the distance across the thoroughfare. The painting closest to this one is Avenue of the Allies, Great Britain, 1918 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), in which Hassam depicted almost the same section of Fifth Avenue looking uptown but from the west side of the street rather than the east, so that the configuration of flags appears slightly different. The two versions share Hassam’s use of architectural components -- tall, sheetlike buildings -- on both sides of the picture to frame the flag scene. Street scenes were far from new in Hassam’s oeuvre, for he had been fascinated with the hustle-and-bustle of the urban crowds since his early days in Boston. In the earlier images, however, figures usually assume a larger role. In the flag paintings it is the flags, not the figures, that are of primary importance. In the series Hassam experimented with the view, point, depicting the street from varying elevations-street level, slightly higher, above the flags, and even rooftop viewpoints. Hassam no doubt was inspired by the flag celebrations painted by Claude Monet (1840-1926) and other French impressionists, and his first flag paintings were watercolors done in Paris in 1889 during festivities for Bastille Day on July 14. The flags increasingly became the main source of movement and decoration as the series progressed, as they not only became larger but also were more prominently placed. In the paintings from late 1918 such as this one Hassam viewed the flags from below to emphasize their size and positioned them in or near the center of the compositions against a pale sky to form a lively, two-dimensional pattern of colors and designs above the pedestrian-filled street. While the large flags strung across the street wave in the wind, a sense of air and movement is conveyed equally well through the pale palette and exceptionally sketchy, even unfinished surface. The museum’s painting was often exhibited during the years right after the war as part of Hassam’s flag series. In 1919 an unsuccessful attempt was made by a committee of New Yorkers to purchase through popular subscription a group of the flag paintings as a permanent war memorial. The lithograph Avenue of the Allies, used as the frontispiece of A. E. Gallatin’s Art and the Great War (1919), differs only slightly from the museum’s painting in the details of a few of the foreground figures. William Preston Harrison’s overwhelming enthusiasm for the art of Hassam, rather than his patriotism, may have been the crucial factor in his decision to purchase this painting.
More...

About The Era

The early twentieth century witnessed the transformation of the United States into a modern industrialized society and an international political power.

...

The early twentieth century witnessed the transformation of the United States into a modern industrialized society and an international political power. By 1920 more than half of the country’s population lived in urban areas. Seeming to guarantee employment, the cities lured many farmers and African Americans from rural areas. In addition, between 1900 and 1920, 14.5 million immigrants from Europe, Russia, Mexico, and Asia settled here, primarily in urban centers. A new energy was channeled to such cities as New York and Chicago, as massive skyscrapers were erected to furnish much-needed office space and living quarters. Even West Coast cities were affected—the population of Los Angeles tripled between 1900 and 1910; its unplanned urban sprawl and dizzying speed were captured in the zany movies of the Keystone Cops, filmed on the streets of the city.


Art reflected these changing social and economic dynamics. Impressionism and Post-Impressionism were still popular. Yet other, more progressive ideas now challenged artists. A strong new commitment to realism emerged in literature and the fine arts.


In Philadelphia and New York, a group of artists centered around Robert Henri captured the vitality of urban American life. These realists depicted the hustle and bustle of city streets, the common pleasures of restaurants and various forms of entertainment. Critics dubbed these realists the “Ash Can School” because of their treatment of unidealized subject matter previously considered unattractive. These artists focused on the inhabitants of cities rather than the cities themselves. Their interest in people also led them to create a significant number of single-figure paintings, conveying the human side of the new America . During the 1910s and 1920s the realist celebration of America spread throughout the country, as artists recorded the neighborhoods and people that made their own cities distinct.

 
More...

Bibliography

  • About the Era.
  • Donahue, Kenneth. Los Angeles County Museum of Art Handbook. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1977.
  • Price, Lorna.  Masterpieces from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  Los Angeles:  Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1988.
  • About the Era.
  • Donahue, Kenneth. Los Angeles County Museum of Art Handbook. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1977.
  • Price, Lorna.  Masterpieces from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  Los Angeles:  Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1988.
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art Members' Calendar 1988,  vol. 25-26, no. 12-1 (December, 1987-January, 1989).
  • Fort, Ilene Susan. The Flag Paintings of Childe Hassam. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1988.
  • Fort, Ilene Susan and Michael Quick.  American Art:  a Catalogue of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Collection.  Los Angeles:  Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1991.
  • Mittler, Gene A.  Art in Focus.  Glencoe/MacMillan McGraw-Hill, 2000.
  • LACMA: Obras Maestras 1750-1950: Pintura Estadounidense Del Museo De Arte Del Condado De Los Angeles. Mexico, D.F.: Museo Nacional de Arte, 2006.
More...