A 1930s painter’s stark, austere New York City

“I attempt to capture the layers and depth of the city’s environment, not paint it brick by brick,” stated painter Francis Criss.

The cleanness of his work is in stark contrast to Depression-era New York’s poverty and uncertainty.

Both City Landscape (1934), above, and Astor Place (1932), below, have the sharply defined geometric forms and austere, almost sanitized look characteristic of the Precisionist painters.

The Precisionists emerged in the 1920s and 1930s, and they focused on the urban landscapes of a growing, industrialized nation.

His style won’t resonate with everyone. But his New York street scenes—one of two nuns standing in front of today’s Kmart, the other of the Port Authority Building rising on lower Eighth Avenue—are instantly recognizable 80 years later.

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14 Responses to “A 1930s painter’s stark, austere New York City”

  1. Parnassus Says:

    These remind me a little of postcards that started out as photos, but have been revised, overpainted, and colorized so much that the look like paintings or sketches.

  2. Beth Says:

    I haven’t heard of this artist and I like these!

  3. visualingual Says:

    Wow, thanks for making my day! I love this work and can’t believe that I never knew about this artist. He’s got pieces in the Brooklyn Museum, so I must have seen his work before but it just never resonated until now.

  4. A 1930s painter's stark, austere New York City « Ephemeral New York | HelloBlvd Cities | Hello Blvd | HB | HBC Says:

    [...] site: A 1930s painter's stark, austere New York City « Ephemeral New York Tags: art, artist, change, eighth-avenue, francis-criss, log-nbspout, music, new-york-street, [...]

  5. wildnewyork Says:

    I recently found out about him too; his work hits me in a way I can’t really explain. And I immediately knew where those scenes were, of course….

  6. rocco dormarunno(akafivepointsguy) Says:

    There’s a strange, dreamlike quality to this. The perspective and sparsely populated landscapes are very reminiscent of De Chirico’s works.

  7. Les Says:

    The people in the Astor Place photo…what kind of garb & headcoverings is that?

  8. Andy Says:

    Where could you buy prints/posters of these works?

  9. BabyDave Says:

    I can’t figure the angle of the Astor Place painting. That looks like Cooper Union on the left, but that would put the subway entrance in the wrong spot. Somebody help me out.

  10. Bosko Says:

    I’m with BabyDave. And it’s looking north, too, to judge by the ‘scrapers. I think it’s more a collaged evocation of Astor Place than an actual view.

  11. Bosko Says:

    The top one is Greenwich and Eighth.

  12. VillagePerson Says:

    Bottom picture is looking south from Ninth Street and Fourth Avenue toward Astor Place, with Cooper Union on the left and the “K-Mart Building” on the right. The (northbound) subway entrance is approximately in the right place, but the artist has taken some artistic license to keep things sparse (and the Cube wasn’t there back then).

  13. A “dreamlike” view of the Third Avenue El | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] his fellow painters in the precisionist movement, Goeller stressed the clean geometry of the modern city. All elements of his painting direct […]

  14. Bold shapes and colors of a 1930s El station | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] subjects of these two downtown New York paintings still look the same almost a century […]

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