William Glackens's buoyant view of well-to-do vacationers at the beach at Blue Point on Long Island's south shore, recalls the work of the French impressionists, especially Renoir. The cheerful white and orange striped umbrellas punctuate the sun-washed sand fronting an elegant resort hotel. Feathery brushwork contributes to the festive quality of the scene as we observe it from out on the water. The joyous color and light describe a world far removed from the realities of World War I, then raging in Europe, or even from New York's alleys and elevated railways, which Glackens illustrated early in his career.
The sense of immediacy that animates this summer spectacle stems from the artist's familiarity with his subject. He and his family summered in nearby Bellport, then becoming an artists' and writers' colony. Their presence signaled the burgeoning pursuit of leisure on the part of America's growing middle class. The 1880s had witnessed a boom in tourism; by 1915, the beaches were already crowded.
|Beach Umbrellas at Blue Point | 1915|
Oil on Canvas | 66.1 cm x 81.3 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Source: "Scenes of American Life: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum"