Jerome Myers: the “gentle poet” of the slums

In 1882, painter Jerome Myers moved to New York from his native Virgina. Visiting the crowded ethnic slums of the Lower East Side, he found the inspiration for his life’s work.

“‘My song in my work,’ he wrote, ‘is a simple song of the poor far from any annals of the rich,'” states Seeing America: Painting and Sculpture From the Collection of the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester.

Myers depicted day-to-day street life and interactions for the next several decades until his death in 1940. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he eschewed grittiness and saw poetic beauty in his subjects.

“His was not a world of sweatshops and street urchins but rather one where people gathered to gossip and barter in the marketplace, rest in city parks or at the end of East River piers, participate in the many religious revival festivals or attend the theater of outdoor concerts,” explains Seeing America.

“Myers cherished, above all, the playful, colorful lives of the children he observed on the Lower East Side. Always clean and well-dressed, they bear no resemblance to the street urchins that haunt the photographs of Lewis Hine and Jacob Riis or paintings by George Luks.”

“‘Why catch humanity by the shirttail,’ Myers wrote, ‘when I could . . . see more pleasant things?‘”

[From top: Sunday Morning, 1907; Corner Market; The Mission Tent, 1906; Evening Recreation, 1920]

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7 Responses to “Jerome Myers: the “gentle poet” of the slums”

  1. OyiaBrown Says:

    Reblogged this on Oyia Brown.

  2. Upstate Ellen Says:

    They must skipped Jerome Myers in all the art history classes I took in college. Too bad; these are beautiful images. Thanks for a great post.

  3. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    Another beautiful ‘discovery’.

  4. wildnewyork Says:

    I know, he’s new to me too. Definitely needs more attention. Hope you’re doing okay Mick after the storm!

  5. EV Grieve Etc.: Mourning Edition « NYC Real Estate News Says:

    […] The ‘gentle poet’ of the Lower East Side slums (Ephemeral New York) […]

  6. petey Says:

    yes, also new to me. great find!

  7. The “humble lives” outside an East Side house | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] I know is that it was somewhere in today’s Lower East Side, and in 1915 captured the eye of painter Jerome Myers, a Virginia native who moved to New York in the […]

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