The mystery man in a rowboat on the East River

The Hudson has its beauty. But New York owes its financial power to the East River—not really a river of course but a 16-mile tidal estuary that for most of the city’s history was one of the busiest ports in the world.


This late 19th century painting of a pale blue East River thick with ships on both sides and a lone man in a rowboat apparently struggling in the current is credited by one source to Impressionist William Merritt Chase.

I haven’t been able to confirm Chase as the artist. But as a Brooklyn resident in the 1880s, he often focused on the city’s physical beauty as well as scenes of day-to-day life that suggest a bit of mystery.

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One Response to “The mystery man in a rowboat on the East River”

  1. Audrey Burtrum-Stanley Says:

    ‘Man in a rowboat’…flash foreward a century.

    Although no paintings exist of the modern era scene, there are multiple tales of JOHN KENNEDY JR’s fool-hardy / daring-do activities in the waterways around NYC. Starting at dusk and continuing late into the night, the scion of the famed Kennedy family would regularly seek a sanctuary where he could exercise, enjoy the view and be alone. When he wished to escape from tourists, groupies, the press, etc… John-John would paddle in the busy East River and nearby waterways. He was just a small figure in a slender, darting kayak, oft cloaked in the shadows of night ‘n the dark surging waves of passing ocean-going craft.

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