"The Avenue in the Rain . . . is one of some 30 related paintings of flag-decorated streets that the artist [Childe Hassam] produced between 1916 and 1919, during and immediately after the First World War. . . . [T]hey are intensely patriotic works . . . .
". . . The avenue is Fifth Avenue, frequently decorated with American flags as American sentiment moved . . . from isolationism toward intervention. The artist's most striking device here is the projection of flags into the picture from points of unseen anchor beyond the frame . . . . In one sense the flags become the surface of the painting . . . .
"Observing shadows to be bluish rather than black, the Impressionists often became mannered in their use of blue, making it a dominant hue in many of their paintings. . . .
[H]ere the rain and the rain-slicked streets give [Hassam] an excuse for a literal wash of blue and blue-gray, enhanced by a profusion of reflections."
Hassam (pronounced HASS'm;) (known to all as Childe, pronounced like child; named after an uncle) was born in his family home in Dorchester, Boston, in 1859. His father Frederick was a moderately successful cutlery businessman with a large collection of art and antiques. He descended from a long line of New Englanders. His mother, Rosa, a native of Maine, shared an ancestor with American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne. His father claimed descent from a seventeenth-century English immigrant whose name, Horsham, had been corrupted over time to Hassam. With his dark complexion and heavily-lidded eyes, many took Childe Hassam to be of Middle Eastern descent - speculation which he enjoyed stoking. In the mid-1880s, he took to painting an Islamic-appearing crescent moon (which eventually degenerated into only a slash) next to his signature, and he adopted the nickname "Muley" (from the Arabic "Mawla", Lord or Master), invoking Muley Abul Hassan, a fifteenth-century ruler of Granada in Washington Irving's novel Tales of the Alhambra.