A “dreamlike” vision of the Third Avenue El

In his 1934 painting “Third Avenue,” precisionist Charles L. Goeller depicts a crisp, geometrical street corner, with the gray elevated train tracks and then the sleek Chrysler Building looming in the distance.


“The artist lived just a few doors east of this corner, yet his rendition of the familiar scene is strangely dreamlike,” states the website of theĀ Smithsonian Institute, which has “Third Avenue” in its collection.

“Like his fellow painters in the precisionist movement, Goeller stressed the clean geometry of the modern city. All elements of his painting direct attention to the rising spire of the Chrysler Building, a vision of an ideal future shaped by American engineering.”

“Such foreground details as trash lying by the curb and scarred red paint where a sign has been removed from a wall seem deliberately introduced to contrast with the flawless edifice in the distance.”

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3 Responses to “A “dreamlike” vision of the Third Avenue El”

  1. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    Too bad I can’t go and investigate (I live too far away from the site) but I am very certain that the red building is still standing, I may be wrong, any ideas?

  2. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    According to Google Maps, it was replaced by a red brick apartment building. That doesn’t surprise me–once the El was torn down, lots of these went up.

  3. Bob_in_MA Says:

    I’ve never heard of Goeller, but his style is very similar to the regionalists of that era.

    The Smithsonian has a great collection of American art, but a lot of people don’t realize it’s separate from the National Gallery. They used to call their art museum in the old patent office, “The National Collection of Fine Art.” There were times when I’d be one of a dozen people in the building, meanwhile there’d be swarms down at the National Gallery to see the latest blockbuster.

    One small point, it’s the Smithsonian Institution.


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