Strawberry Tea Set

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Strawberry Tea Set

United States, 1912
Oil on canvas
36 11/16 x 37 15/16 in. (93.19 x 96.36 cm)
Mr. and Mrs. William Preston Harrison Collection (29.18.13)
Not currently on public view

Curator Notes

Around 1910 Hassam began depicting single female figures set in comfortable domestic interiors....
Around 1910 Hassam began depicting single female figures set in comfortable domestic interiors. The critic Royal Cortissoz referred to these paintings as the "window series," since the figure either sits or stands in front of or next to a window through which sunlight streams into a room. Often the window provides an unobstructed view of the city, but occasionally, as here, a drapery filters the light or even obstructs the view. Usually little of the room is shown, except for a highly polished table, which reflects the sunlight, and upon which is set a delicate vase of fresh flowers, a tea set, platter of fruit, or an objet d’art. The woman is never very active but instead is engrossed in a book, thoughtful contemplation, or quiet examination of an object. Often, as in this painting and Tanagra, 1918 (National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.), the woman is dressed in a loose fitting costume. Tanagra is the window-series painting most closely related to Strawberry Tea Set, sharing the similarity of the woman’s costume, the horizontal composition, and the woman’s fascination with an object that she holds in her hand. In these paintings Hassam came close to the studio productions of the Boston school painters and their depictions of upper-class women living comfortably in their elegant houses. Hassam differed from them in his emphasis on mood, which he conveyed through the figure’s introspective attitude and evocative lighting. In his delineation of form Hassam was more conservative in the window series than in his flag paintings of the same period. This is especially true of Strawberry Tea Set, where the figure is slightly larger than in most of the other window paintings. Hassam rendered her as quite solid by modeling the form with heavy brushstrokes and manipulating the filtered light. Much less conservative was the palette, as Hassam daringly carried out the composition in a brilliant bluish green, ocher, an electric purple for highlights, and a pure white.

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.



  • About the Era.
  • 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.