Childe Hassam, the son of a Boston merchant, was born on 17 October 1859 in Dorchester, Massachusetts. He was educated at the Mather School in Dorchester where he received training in both drawing and watercolour. Hassam was apprenticed to George E. Johnson, a Boston wood engraver, but by 1879 he had become a freelance illustrator and was providing designs for such journals as Harper's, Century and Scribner's. During this time he also studied at the Boston Art Club and at the Lowell Institute, where he received instruction from William Rimmer, and was privately taking lessons from Ignaz M. Gaugengigl, who had been trained in Munich.

Hassam made his first of what would be five trips to Europe in 1883, travelling with the painter Edmund H. Garrett to Scotland, England, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy and Spain. Returning home he attended life classes at the Boston Art Club and became a member of the Boston Paint and Clay Club, an organisation of artists and critics. Around 1885 he began to paint atmospheric day and evening views of Boston with its streets shrouded in mist and rain or covered with snow. Hassam returned to Europe in 1886, spending most of his time in Paris. He attended classes at the Académie Julian, studying under Gustave Boulanger and Jules Joseph Lefebvre. He exhibited Autumn and Sun and Flowers at the Paris Salon in 1889, as well as four paintings at the Exposition Universelle, where he received a bronze medal. Part of his summer that year was spent in England before he returned to America.

In 1890 Hassam became friends with John Twachtman and J. Alden Weir. He exhibited at the final show of the Society of Artists in Pastel and became a member of the Society of American Artists and the American Watercolor Society. He returned to Appledore, Isles of Shoals, a small island off the coast of New Hampshire, which he had known from his youth, and would continue to paint for the next fifteen years. The artistic and literary activity there centred around the salon of the poetess Celia Thaxter, Hassam's former pupil; he illustrated her book, An Island Garden, which was published in 1894.

In 1895 Hassam visited Havana, Cuba, and in 1896-97 he again visited Europe where he spent a year in France, England, and Italy. Resigning from the Society of American Artists in 1898, he joined the Ten American Painters. Hassam published Three Cities in 1899, a book of his views of Paris, New York, and London. In 1902 he was elected associate of the National Academy of Design and became an academician in 1906. Hassam travelled Out West in 1904, 1908, and 1914; he travelled again to Europe in 1910 and 1911. In 1915 Hassam became interested in etching, and by 1917 he began producing lithographs. From 1916-19 he painted his well known Flag Paintings, a series of over thirty views of Fifth Avenue decorated with banners, bunting and flags for various patriotic celebrations, which were first shown at the Durand-Ruel Galleries in 1918. Hassam moved to East Hampton, Long Island, NY, in 1919, making it his permanent summer home. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1920. On 27 August 1935 Hassam died at East Hampton.

Kenneth W. Maddox