DescriptionCHILDE HASSAM (American, 1859-1935)
The MacKaye Spectatorium with Iowa Pavillion in Foreground, Columbian Exposition, 1893
Watercolor over pencil architectural rendering on paper laid on board
24 x 36 inches (61.0 x 91.4 cm)
Signed and dated lower left: Childe / Hassam / 1893
James Morrison Steele MacKaye, New York, acquired from the above, 1893;
Percy MacKaye, son of the above, by descent, circa 1927;
J.N. Bartfield Galleries, New York;
M.R. Schweitzer Gallery, New York, acquired from the above, 1971;
Michael and Lynne Lerner, Short Hills, New Jersey, acquired from the above, 1980;
Sotheby's, New York, December 1, 1994, lot 11;
Bonhams, New York, December 2, 2009, lot 63;
Bonhams and Butterfields, Los Angeles, California, April 6, 2011, lot 1049;
Private collection, Woodland Hills, California.
Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, New York, "Theatrical Evolution in America: 1776-1976," March 22-June 28, 1976.
P. MacKaye, The Life of Steele MacKaye: A Memoir By His Son, Percy MacKaye, vol. II, New York, 1927, p. 392, pl. 86, illustrated;
S. Applebaum, The Chicago World's Fair of 1893: A Photographic Record, New York, 1980, pp. 83, 85, 87, illustrated.
"Behind the Iowa Building . . . rose one of the unlaid ghosts of the Exposition, the unfinished Spectatorium that Jenney and Mundie had begun for the astonishing playwright, inventor and megalomaniac Steele MacKaye. MacKaye had talked the Exposition planners into building this vast theatre, which was to portray the story of Columbus in the form of a pageant ('spectatorio') called The Great Discovery, or The World Finder, using such equipment as a sun cylinder, sky cyclorama, moving stages and a 'curtain of light.' George Pullman had invested $500,000. MacKaye had approached Dvorák, then teaching in New York, to write a score and the Symphony from the New World is traceable to this project. Many Exposition sites were discussed, including a combination with the Terminal Station, but the Spectatorium was eventually begun just outside the northeast corner of Jackson Park. Plans by the commercially minded backers to add restaurants and similar ungodly facilities within the hallowed building raised construction costs; then, with the Panic of 1893, money became very tight. The city of Chicago had pledged a million dollars in April 1893, but conveniently forgot its promise. When work on the Spectatorium was abandoned, some $850,000 had been poured into it. Late in 1893 it was sold as junk for $2,250" (S. Applebaum, The Chicago World's Fair of 1893: A Photographic Record, New York, 1980, p. 83, 85).
"Among the younger groups of artists, with whom Steele MacKaye used then at times to forgather, was the distinguished American painter, Childe Hassam, who painted in 1893, from the architectural elevation designed by my father, a large water colour of the Spectatorium exterior, atmospheric in its sensitive colouring. . . . 'I first met your father' - Mr. Hassam himself has written me - 'at the Auditorium Hotel (where I was staying in 1893), in the company of Sullivan, architect of the auditorium, which was then just complete, the best hotel in Chicago. Of course I was immediately taken by your father's striking and pleasing personality. There were then a number of architects, sculptors, painters, at work on the Fair, and our group used to dine in the Auditorium Cafe. Regarding the Sepctatorium painting, whatever skill in handling the water colour wash - and the colour is mine - the rest is your father's architectural ideas'" (P. MacKaye, The Life of Steele MacKaye: A Memoir by his Son, Percy MacKaye, vol. II, New York, 1927, p. 317).
According to Kathleen Burnside of The Childe Hassam Catalogue Raisonné, "Hassam created a number of images of Chicago and the World's Columbian Exposition. Some were unique renditions - watercolors, gouaches, oils - of various buildings and sites. Others, like this work, appear to be more expansive topographical watercolors that seem to be expressively colored by Hassam, and signed, over a precise pencil rendering underneath that may not have been his work. In the case of this piece, The MacKaye Spectatorium, there are a number of sources . . . that suggest that the under drawing was produced by architect Steele MacKaye, who was the driving creative force behind this unrealized grand edifice" (email to Mary Adair Dockery, Heritage Auctions, June 19, 2014).
We wish to thank Kathleen M. Burnside and Stuart Feld of The Childe Hassam Catalogue Raisonné for their gracious assistance in cataloguing this watercolor, and for providing the above reference material. The present work will be included in The Childe Hassam Catalogue Raisonné by Kathleen M. Burnside and Stuart Feld.
Toning throughout with scattered spots of discoloration in sky; mat burn along all four sheet edges; spots of support loss in lower left corner and at far left and center top sheet edge; scattered small tears and frame abrasions along all four sheet edges; framed under glass Framed Dimensions 30.5 X 42 Inches
*Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.
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