The “river rats” taking a swim off Manhattan

Painter George Bellows chronicled many of New York’s slum streets and tenements.

In 1906’s gritty and dark River Rats, he portrays the poor kids who spent summer evenings cooling off in the filthy East River, the docks and rocks their only respite from the heat of the city.

“Along the lower edge of the muddy-colored canvas a gangling group of scantily clad boys is depicted cavorting at the edge of the East River, while the center of the painting is given over to the graceless, rocky cliff descending from the city streets to the water,” writes Marianne Doezema in George Bellows and Urban America.

The rocky cliff in the painting—perhaps it was part of the old Gashouse District in the East 20s or Dutch Hill in the East 40s and 50s, which became an industrial area packed with slaughterhouses and factories before being razed to make way for Tudor City in the 1920s?

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4 Responses to “The “river rats” taking a swim off Manhattan”

  1. fivepointsguy Says:

    If not for anything else, this site has given me a greater appreciation for George Bellows! Thank you.

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    Thanks! I love his New York–he covers the rough edges.

  3. EV Grieve Etc.: Mourning edition « NYC Real Estate News Says:

    [...] The East River Rats on 1906 (Ephemeral New York) [...]

  4. Real Estate News NYC via Tigho | EV Grieve Etc.: Mourning edition - Real Estate News NYC via Tigho Says:

    […] The East River Rats on 1906 (Ephemeral New York) […]

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