Shadows and light under the El in Yorkville, 1947

No one depicts New York’s shadows and light like Martin Lewis, who made numerous drypoint etchings of city streets and the people inhabiting them from the 1920s to the 1940s.

“Yorkville Night” reveals a corner under an unnamed elevated train in the postwar city. There’s darkness, but the streetcar tracks, pavement, produce stand, and station stairwells are brightly illuminated, giving us a peek into a fleeting moment in this Upper East Side neighborhood.

The only thing we can’t see are the faces of the people.

See more of Martin Lewis’ work here.

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6 Responses to “Shadows and light under the El in Yorkville, 1947”

  1. Zoé Says:

    This is amazing. I studied etching at SVA; thanks for introducing me to this artist who I was unfamiliar with Ephemeral.

    The great thing about NY is how some things remain completely the same. Look at the fruit stand! (As we call them people. They are not a “deli”. A “deli” has lox & everything bagels etc. Forgive the digression…). This fruit stand could have been rendered *yesterday*… lol… The only difference would be the amount of plastic containers & fridges inside… Outside it looks the same.

  2. Ann MCCormack Says:

    This is terrific. I love the people he’s drawn in their late-night activities – perhaps on the way home from the subway. Since it’s entitled “Yorkville Night”, the train would be the Third Avenue El (closed ’73). Strictly speaking, Yorkville was bordered by E 79th and E 96th, 3rd Ave and the East River. The stairs indicate a station stop so, – if the artist was envisioning an actual spot – this Yorkville station would be either E 84 and E 89th. In the “street view” on google maps, there’s a food shop with fruit stand (on the side, tho’) still in a corner building that looks like this one. I love art depicting NYC in other eras. So fascinating!

  3. Joe F Says:

    That view is looking west across 3rd Avenue under the 3rd Ave EL towards the veggie-fruit stand at the S.W. corner of E. 89th Street on 3rd Avenue. The one stairway is to the downtown E.89th Street Station House on the EL at that corner. The underside of the EL structure here was only 11 feet above the street here — one of the lowest points along the EL. I rode and remember the EL, and know this store, corner and area well from the 1940’s-60’s

    My mother and I shopped at that store in early to mid 1950’s

  4. Drypoint etchings of New York City a little while back. One in Connecticut. Martin Lewis, artist (1881-1962). Born and raised in Australia but mostly working later in New York. – Toes in a Very Different Sand Says:

    […] “Yorkville Night.” 1947. Image © Estate of Martin Lewis. Fair use license. via “Circus Night.” 1933. Etching. Signed in pencil. Image courtesy The Old Print Shop. © […]

  5. A printmaker’s New York in shadows and light | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Lewis’ masterful etchings—which offer shadowy, poetic glimpses of 1920s and 1930s New York—have been featured on Ephemeral New York many times […]

  6. The mysterious woman on the “little penthouse” of a 1930s tenement roof | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] at play under the glow of shop lights, young women on the town illuminated by street lamps, and New Yorkers going about their lives unaware that someone is […]

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