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Born into a deeply rooted New England family, Frederick Childe Hassam (1859-1935) was the son of a Boston antique collector and was to become known as one of America's foremost impressionist painters. While studying at the Boston Art Club and at the Lowell Institute in Boston, Hassam was introduced to plein air, or open air, painting. After winning medals at Paris exhibitions in 1888-1889 he returned to the United States and established his career in New York City. There he refined his impressionist technique of high keyed color and flickering brushwork with the life of the city as his subject. In 1898, Hassam and fellow impressionist, J. Alden Weir, co-founded the "Society of Ten," an organization of leading American Impressionist painters who exhibited together regularly for twenty years. As members would fall away from the group another painter would be invited in to maintain the group's number at ten. For Hassam, summers away from the city were spent painting in New England, especially at his favorite spot, the Island of Appledore off the New Hampshire-Maine coast. During his lifetime, Hassam won almost every honor and prize available to him, but his most honored tribute was his election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1920.
The Outer Harbour dates from the prime of Hassam's painting career (1909) and shows his interest in light, color and a painterly brush stroke. The almost square format along with the high perspective from which the harbour is viewed combine to make it a modern and dramatic scene.