Playing in the snow in Tompkins Square Park

Is this painting from 1934 or 2013? Tompkins Square Park and the colorful row of buildings bordering it on East 10th Street have barely changed in 89 years in Saul Kovner’s “Tompkins Park, N.Y. City.”


Kovner was a Russia-born painter; like so many other struggling artists, he worked for the New Deal’s Public Works of Art Project in the 1930s.

“The PWAP encouraged their commissioned artists to capture ‘the American Scene,’ and in this painting Kovner conveys strong messages of community spirit and American values,” states the web site for the Smithsonian Institution, which owns this painting.

“Children and adults enjoy winter in the park, building snowmen and playing with sleds; the presence of the Stars and Stripes in the center of the work places this as a uniquely American scene.”

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6 Responses to “Playing in the snow in Tompkins Square Park”

  1. Bob_in_MA Says:

    I love the WPA art, thanks!

    What do you think the stairway in the background leads to? It kind of looks like those at elevated RR stations, but there’s no el.

    One small point, It’s Smithsonian Institution.

    Thanks again,


  2. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Thank you, fixed it. I was wondering what it was too–I figured some kind of playground gear. Apparently Robert Moses completed a renovation of the park in 1936, but perhaps he moved recreational facilities there earlier, before the renovation was complete?

  3. thegreenockian Says:

    Fabulous picture.

  4. Skating on the Central Park Lake in the 1930s | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Kovner painted other winter scenes in New York as well, like this one of a snow day in Tompkins Square Park. […]

  5. Inside a New York Depression-era “relief station” | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Saul Kovner was a Russia-born artist best known for his poetic glimpses of 1930s New York, from East Side tenement backyards to kids playing in a snow-blanketed Tompkins Square Park. […]

  6. One summer night on a New York tenement roof | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] captured gentle yet honest scenes in all seasons of urban life, particularly of working class and poor New Yorkers. In 1946, he completed “One Summer […]

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