Paris at Twilight by Childe Hassam
Childe Hassam (1859--1935) was an American painter credited with introducing Impressionism to the United States. He was a workman-like artist who traveled and studied widely, and made a living, first as an illustrator, and then later in life as a highly popular impressionistic painter. A picture of his, Paris at Twilight, is part of the permanent collection at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. I look at it every time I visit.
Paris is, in my mind, a fairly indifferent painting. It looks an awful like a bunch of other Impressionistic street scenes, and while pretty enough, it doesn't hang around in your head for very long. The reason I keep going back to it is that the American novelist, Sinclair Lewis collected Hassam, and very likely owned Paris at one time. Lewis, the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature was, once upon a time, widely and deservedly read, and it is fair to say that he had more influence on American culture than Hemingway and Fitzgerald combined; I'm sorry that he's mostly off the radar for most readers today.
If Lewis owned Pairs he lost it in his divorce from his second wife, newspaper columnist Dorothy Thompson, who left him because of his boozing. Lewis later complained that "Dorothy took everything, even the @%$^&* wallpaper!" We can surmise that she took the pictures, too.
Two of America's orneriest critics, H.L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan, revered Lewis' work and did much to promote his career. But neither of them liked him very much as a person, and made terrible fun of him for his boozing, for being a rube, and for not being Ernest Hemingway. When they heard that he and Thompson were buying Hassam paintings, they exchanged a lot of snarky commentary about "Lewis buying his way into the Country Club."
All of this is by way of saying that there is always a story behind every picture. I don't know enough about art to say whether or not Hassam is an artistic hack or hero, but I love thinking about where his pictures have been, and who might have looked at them at one time. If you get a chance to see Paris at Twilight, I'd love to know what you think about it.