Stealing glances in a Depression-era subway car

“In this painting Lily Furedi boldly did something that few dare to do: she looked at people on the subway,” states the Smithsonian Institute of Furedi’s 1934 work, plainly titled “Subway.”


“She took the viewpoint of a seated rider gazing down the car at her fellow passengers. The Hungarian-born artist knew of the subway riders’ customary avoidance of staring at one’s fellow riders; most people in her painting keep to themselves by hiding behind a magazine or newspaper, or by sleeping.”

“Those who violate the unwritten rule do so furtively. A woman takes a quiet sidelong glance at the newspaper read by the man next to her, while a man steals a peek at a young woman applying lipstick. Only two women in the foreground, who obviously know each other, dare to look directly at each other as they talk companionably.”

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5 Responses to “Stealing glances in a Depression-era subway car”

  1. Sarah Says:

    I love this. And I have been (silently) loving your blog. Makes me so happy. Thank you. Sarah

  2. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Thank you, that makes me so happy you enjoy it!

  3. chas Says:

    Great Painting….nice detail in the car itself. For those who can, visit the Transit Museum in Bklyn and find the car you rode in as a kid….

  4. Laura4NYC Says:

    All of this still applies for today! The hidden glances, the girls who apply make-up, and then people talking to each other.

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