A patriotic whirlwind overtook mid–town Manhattan as America entered the First World War in the spring of 1917. On Fifth Avenue, the British Union Jack, the French Tricolor, and Stars and Stripes were displayed prominently during parades honoring America's allies. The colorful pageantry inspired Childe Hassam, who dedicated this picture "to the coming together of [our] three peoples in the fight for democracy." Hassam's flag paintings were first shown as a group in New York's Durand–Ruel Gallery in November 1918, just four days after the armistice was declared. Thus, the works, originally created to herald America's entry into the war, also served to commemorate its victorious resolution.
Hassam had studied in Paris from 1886–1889 and was strongly influenced by the impressionists. In many respects, Allies Day resembles the vibrant boulevard paintings of Monet and Pissarro. Like these contemporary French artists, Haassam selected a high vantage point overlooking a crowded urban thoroughfare to achieve an illusion of dramatic spatial recession. But, rather than using daubs of shimmering pigment to dissolve form, he applied fluid parallel paint strokes to create an architectonic patterning. Although he shared the impressionists' interest in bright colors, broken brushwork, and modern themes, Hassam's overall approach was less theoretical and his pictorial forms remained far more substantial than those of his European contemporaries.
More information on this painting can be found in the Gallery publication American Paintings of the Nineteenth Century, Part I, pages 283-287, which is available as a free PDF at https://www.nga.gov/content/dam/ngaweb/research/publications/pdfs/american-paintings-19th-century-part-1.pdf
center left: Childe Hassam / May 17 1917; upper left reverse, in monogram: C.H.; upper right reverse: May 1917
Sold 1919 through (E. & A. Milch, Inc., New York) to Gilbert E. Rubens [1884-1960], New York, until 1930; (William Macbeth, New York); sold December 1930 to Glenn Ford McKinney [d. 1934], New York; acquired 1934 by his sister, Ethelyn McKinney, Greenwich, Connecticut; gift 1943 to NGA.
- Ninety-third Annual Exhibition, National Academy of Design, New York, 1918, no. 282.
- Exhibition of a Retrospective Group of Paintings Representative of the Life Work of Childe Hassam, N.A., The Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, Albright Art Gallery, 1929, no. 109, as St. Thomas' Avenue of the Allies, 1917.
- Paintings and Watercolors by Childe Hassam, Milch Galleries, New York, 1943, no. 9.
- Extended loan for use by The White House, Washington, D.C., 1945.
- Extended loan for use by Blair House, Washington, D.C., 1952-1953.
- Extended loan for use by The White House, Washington, D.C., 1953-1964.
- About New York, Night and Day 1915-1965, The Gallery of Modern Art, New York, 1965, unnumbered, p. 17.
- National Gallery Loan Exhibition, Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, North Carolina, 1967, no. 17.
- French Impressionists Influence American Artists, Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida, 1971, no. 63.
- What is American in American Art, M. Knoedler and Co. [benefit exhibition for the Museum of American Folk Art], New York, 1971, no. 99.
- American Impressionist Painting, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Whitney Musuem of American Art, New York; Cincinnati Art Museum; The North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, 1973-1974, no. 35.
- The American Flag in the Art of Our Country, Allentown Art Museum, Pennsylvania, 1976, repro. 43.
- The Ten, Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi, 1977, repro. 31.
- The Flag Paintings of Childe Hassam, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth; IBM Gallery of Science and Art, New York, 1988-1989, no. 8 (cat. by Ilene Fort).
- American Impressionism: Masterworks from Public and Private Collections in the United States, Villa Favorita, Lugano-Castagnola, Switzerland, 1990, no. 24 (cat. by William Gerdts).
- American Impression and Realism: The Painting of Modern Life, 1885-1915, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth; The Denver Art Museum; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1994-1995, no. 31, fig. 178.
- Rave Reviews: American Art and Its Critics, 1826-1925, National Academy of Design, New York; Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa; Indianapolis Museum of Art, 2000-2001, no. 67, repro. (shown only in New York).
- Childe Hassam, American Impressionist, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2004, unnumbered catalogue, fig. 232.
- Americans in Paris 1860-1900, The National Gallery, London; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2006 - 2007, no. 94.
- Noyes, Alfred. The Avenue of the Allies and Victory. New York, 1918: frontispiece.
- "The National Academy's Ninety-third Annual Exhibition." American Magazine of Art 9 (May 1918): 290, repro. 260.
- The New York Times (13 March 1918): 11:3.
- The Milch Gallery. Art Notes (April 1919): 9-11.
- The Milch Gallery. Art Notes (October 1919): 5-6.
- Pousette-Dart, Nathaniel. Childe Hassam. In Distinguished American Artists. New York, 1922: viii.
- "Fine Arts Values Again Revealed by Hassam Sale." Art News 29 (13 December 1930): 3.
- Adams, Adeline. Childe Hassam. New York, 1938: 71-72.
- Lowe, David G. "The Banner Years." American Heritage 20 (June 1969): 54, repro. 55.
- American Paintings and Sculpture: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1970: 66, repro.
- Andrew, John. Saint Thomas Church. New York, 1973: 16, 18, repro. 4.
- King, Marian. Adventures in Art: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1978: 106, pl. 69.
- Hoopes, Donelson F. Childe Hassam. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, 1979, p. 82.
- American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1980: 171, repro.
- Wilmerding, John. American Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1980: 16, no. 51, color repro.
- Williams, William James. A Heritage of American Paintings from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1981: color repro. 6, 192.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 568, no. 867, color repro.
- Fort, Ilene. The Flag Paintings of Childe Hassam. Exh. cat. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1988: no. 8, color repro. 46.
- Wilmerding, John. American Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art. Rev. ed. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1988: 19-20, 160, 162, no. 57, color repro.
- American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 196, repro.
- National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 249, repro.
- Kelly, Franklin, with Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr., Deborah Chotner, and John Davis. American Paintings of the Nineteenth Century, Part I. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1996: 283-287, color repro.
- Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 405, no. 335, color repro.
- Goldin, Marco, ed. America! Storie di pittura dal Nuovo Mondo. 2 vols. Treviso, 2007: 1:337, repro.; 2:138, 143 n. 46.
- Lubin, David M. Grand Illusions: American Art and the First World War. New York, 2016: 79, color fig. 44
The medium-weight, plain-weave fabric support was lined in 1967. It is primed with a very thin, fluid white ground that appears to have been commercially applied. Paint of rich consistency was applied in a variety of thicknesses and textures. The buildings were roughly delineated using hatches of blue gray, with spaces, such as the lower left corner, left in reserve to allow the brightly colored flags to be painted directly on the imprimatura. The flags were fairly complete before the details of the street and buildings or the sky were painted, as is evident from the continuous, zig-zagging brushstroke that spread the cerulean-hued paint in the region between the fabric and the pole of the large American flag. That there are several areas where the paint from different elements is blended wet-into-wet indicates the work was created over a fairly short period. And it was decisively executed; x-radiography reveals very few areas of overlap or change in the composition. There are minor nicks and abrasion along the top edge. In 1993, discolored varnish was removed and the painting was restored.