“The subway is a microcosm of New York City”

We may never know what printmaker Harry Sternberg was thinking when he etched this rich, detailed scene inside a city subway car (appropriately titled “Subway Car”) in 1930.

But I like Nicole Viglini’s take on a web page published by Smith College Museum of Art in 2015: that Sternberg, who was born on the Lower East Side in 1904 and as a kid took free art classes at the Brooklyn Museum, depicted a microcosm of New York City.

“Though people from many different walks of life are present together, they do not directly interact with one another,” Viglini wrote. “A couple chats in the foreground, and a few shady-looking men look askance; everyone else seems to be absorbed in their own thoughts.”

“The ads above the seats remind the viewer of the busy commercial madhouse above ground. Within the confines of the subway car, hurtling through tunnels beneath the chaotic city, there is a measure of calm and a respite for people to regain some modicum of control.”

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14 Responses to ““The subway is a microcosm of New York City””

  1. The subway is a microcosm of New York City ⋆ New York city blog Says:

    […] “The ads above the seats remind the viewer of the busy commercial madhouse above ground. Within the confines of the subway car, hurtling through tunnels beneath the chaotic city, there is a measure of calm and a respite for people to regain some modicum of control.” Source link […]

  2. papershots Says:

    A microcosm of every big city I may add… how fascinating!

  3. The subway is a microcosm of New York City | News for New Yorkers Says:

    […] Source: FS – NYC Real Estate The subway is a microcosm of New York City […]

  4. The subway is a microcosm of New York City | Real Estate Marketplace Says:

    […] Source: FS – NYC Real Estate The subway is a microcosm of New York City […]

  5. Mykola (Mick) Dementiuk Says:

    Seems there was leisurely room to stand about and gaze at your fellow riders. I recall the early 1960s when the LL train was a real sardine can, we were packed to the gills, and this before fans or working AC. As a matter of fact, all subways were stewed with hot smelly passengers. But I suppose things haven’t gotten any better or have they?

    • Tom B Says:

      Thanks Mick for actual description over 50 years ago. We started riding in the late nineties. We found them safe and clean, some stations very clean for what they are. It saved us so much traveling time over taxis and buses. The unlimited Metro Card is a bargain.

      • Mykola (Mick) Dementiuk Says:

        When we live through the events we don’t think of how they will be viewed 50 years hence. We hurry by, cursing at the slowness but never knowing or understanding the speed in which they hurry by us. In my life I learned one thing, life sure goes by fast, too fast I think. Faster than the subway, that’s for sure.

  6. Rob Says:

    I rode the subway twice in one day (for the first time) a couple of months ago, the last ride was standing room only but there were no smelly individuals.
    The subway was not what I expected ….

  7. John Says:

    Except for the two chatting in front, all that’s missing from all the others are earbuds.
    Great drawing…

  8. tipandjaminwonderland Says:

    Love the subways. They are never pristine, but usually on par with the rest of the city. They are the life blood of a busy city where people have no vehicles of their own. Much rather sit on a subway train than sit in bumper to bumper traffic going no where. Bring music and a book, or like this artist, just people watch.

  9. Kevin Says:

    No ‘straps’?

  10. Chip Says:

    The car depicted in the drawing is a BMT Standard car. The three-seat cross-benches on the left side of the car show that. They were not in the Triplex-D cars. The IRT, of course, had only longitudinal seating. And the IND had not opened yet (and in any case did not have those three seaters).

  11. David H Lippman Says:

    It absolutely is.

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