Childe Hassam was a regular visitor to the Isles of Shoals, nine small, rocky, treeless islands off the New Hampshire coast. His acquaintance with the islands was due to his poet friend Celia Thaxter, whose house on Appledore Island was a summer mecca for writers, painters, illustrators, musicians, and other artistic visitors. Between 1890 and 1894, the year of Thaxter's death, Hassam painted many fine works there, some depicting the interior of Thaxter's cottage, others (the majority), outdoor scenes set either in or nearby her much-admired flower garden. Poppies, Isles of Shoals presents a broad vista moving from a dense foreground of flowers to a background of rocks, water, and sky. This view, centered on an outcropping called Babb's Rock, was one of Hassam's favorites, for he painted it many times. Although ample signs of man's presence were readily apparent from Celia Thaxter's garden, Hassam usually excluded them from his paintings. Here, only a passing sailboat hints that we are not in some pristine, wild environment.
The composition is divided into three distinct and equal bands of space, in which different colors predominate: green and red for the flowers; blue, purple, and white for the rocks and water; and pale blue for the sky. Hassam's brushwork is equally varied, ranging from lush red and white strokes defining the flowers to long drags of pigment suggesting the multihued surfaces of the rocks. At the bottom he left areas of canvas bare, adding yet another color and texture. For anyone accustomed to academic landscape painting, seeing one of Hassam's Isles of Shoals paintings was, as one reviewer wrote, "like taking off a pair of black spectacles that one has been compelled to wear out of doors, and letting the full glory of nature's sunlight color pour in upon the retina." 
(Text by Franklin Kelly, published in the National Gallery of Art exhibition catalogue, Art for the Nation, 2000)
1. From a review of Hassam's exhibition at the Doll and Richards Gallery, Boston, c. 1891; undated clipping, probably from the Boston Transcript, Childe Hassam Papers, American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York; quoted in Ulrich W. Hiesinger, Childe Hassam: American Impressionist (Munich and New York, 1994), 86