A lawyer-turned-artist’s moody Greenwich Village

Until recently, I’d never heard of Greenwich Village painter Anthony Springer. But I’ve found myself captivated by his colorful, textural images of a less dense, less luxurious Village and other surrounding neighborhoods.

Born in 1928, Springer, a native New Yorker, worked as a lawyer before deciding to make painting his vocation at the age of 40, according to friend and fellow artist Robert Holden in 2013 on his blog, Painting Life Stories.

“Tony was a wonderful, quietly mysterious kind of guy, who played poker all night long, slept until the late morning, and then grabbed his half-box French easel and 16×20 inch stretched linen canvas to go paint the narrow side streets of the Village in the dusty afternoon light, a habit he kept up for 20 years or more,” wrote Holden.

When he died in 1995, Springer left behind “hundreds of his beautiful, moody gray cityscapes,” he wrote.

More than two decades or so have passed since Springer’s death, and his evocative work serves as a reminder of the very different pre-2000s Greenwich Village.

Springer’s “Meatpacking District,” at top, takes us to the Belgian block intersection of Greenwich and Gansevoort Streets.

When Springer painted it, this was a daytime corner of trucks, garbage carts, and pigeons before it became an pricey restaurant playground.

His image of a gas station amid tenements is a reminder that downtown used to actually have gas stations. Could this be the one Eighth and Greenwich Avenues?

“Downtown Street” shows a quiet scene of a narrow side street and empty sidewalks. Maybe Mercer Street, or Greene Street?

The last image, “Townhouses and Naked Trees,” feels appropriate for the current season with winter approaching. Hmm, Tenth Street?

[First and last images: Doyle; second and third images: mutualart]

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16 Responses to “A lawyer-turned-artist’s moody Greenwich Village”

  1. ksbeth Says:


  2. Ann Haddad Says:

    So evocative!

  3. Tommy Dulski Says:

    Very cool paintings, more gritty than glamorous.

  4. Bob Says:

    To me, Downtown Street looks like Mercer Street looking south, painted from just south of the southwest corner of Mercer and Spring Streets, with the tall green cast iron storefront columns on the left and the tall building downtown in the background.

    Manhattan Houses and Naked Trees looks to me like King Street looking east towards 6th Avenue, painted from just east of the southeast corner of King and Varick Streets, with the townhouses and narrow sidewalk on the left but a wide sidewalk with canopy on the right. The green canopy on the right would fit for #50 King which looks to me the way it did in this 1999 photo: https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/bc3bede1-a0f5-cebb-e040-e00a18064596. I see the fire hydrant painted slightly east of its current location (but painted in front of a court that is there opposite #50.)

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      King and Varick, looks like you’re right. I should have known by what looks like uneven pavement. Thanks Bob!

  5. Thor Wickstrom Says:

    I knew Tony, nice to see this piece about him. Thanks

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      He sounds like the kind of person we don’t see in Greenwich Village much anymore. His work should be better known.

  6. David H Lippman Says:

    Wonderful paintings.

    I like the first one the most…my daughter is working in that area for a computer publishing start-up.


    What a discovery! Gorgeous, evocative paintings of a neighborhood I know well. In fact, if that is King & Varick, I was just one block away in the 80s. Is there a way to know when exactly these paintings were painted? Thank you for sharing!

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      Thank you! I’m really taken by these, and my favorite is the first one, as David above says is his too.

  8. Denise DeMaio Says:

    This artist’s style is similar to J Sloane…especially light in each painting and softness. What do you think?

    From: Ephemeral New York To: dendemaio@yahoo.com Sent: Monday, December 3, 2018 1:13 AM Subject: [New post] A lawyer-turned-artist’s moody Greenwich Village #yiv6867035287 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv6867035287 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv6867035287 a.yiv6867035287primaryactionlink:link, #yiv6867035287 a.yiv6867035287primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv6867035287 a.yiv6867035287primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv6867035287 a.yiv6867035287primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E !important;color:#fff !important;}#yiv6867035287 WordPress.com | ephemeralnewyork posted: “Until recently, I’d never heard of Greenwich Village painter Anthony Springer. But I’ve found myself captivated by his colorful, textural images of a less dense, less luxurious Village and other surrounding neighborhoods.Born in 1928, Springer, a nati” | |

  9. mary Says:

    The gas station use to be on the corner of Perry st ,Waverly place and 7th ave south

  10. Miro Reverby Says:

    Tony Springer is in this chess documentary “Men Who Would Be Kings”….he also enjoyed playing chess for money in Washington Square Park

    • J. long Says:

      I remember Springer! He was sweet. I’m so grateful for Miro’s (“Riverbeast”) film. So many memories!

  11. Miro Reverby Says:

    An additional anecdote about Tony. I knew him well from playing chess in Washington Square Park in the early 80s to mid 90s, and filmed him in the documentary above:

    “Springer Hour” was every day at 6:00 pm. Tony came to the chess tables every day at 6:00 on the nose (probably after his day’s painting). The hustlers would all wait around for him, often checking their watches. I told them once it was like “Waiting for Godot”.

    “Waiting for Springer”…A lot of the chess hustlers relied on him, he was usually their most reliable source of money. Tony was not a very good chess player but enjoyed gambling on chess – he would negotiate huge handicaps (in clock time, and pieces on the board) and not only bet the hustler, but take side bets. So he would often bet $30 a blitz game (good money in the ’80s), and usually drop hundreds of dollars a day.

    We all knew Tony was well off financially though (he ambled into the park in his painting clothes, looking homeless, from his nearby 5th Avenue apartment), and we knew it meant nothing to him to donate a few hundred dollars a day.

    It was how he got his kicks, he was the center of attention, and he was helping to support the poor chess players. And every rare once in a while, Tony would win…but I don’t think he cared about winning or even wanted to

    • J. Long Says:

      NYC at that time was fabulous! Still fairly dangerous, and not yet entirely gentrified. Met some of the coolest people I have ever met back then. Tony was one of many cool cats who made the Village so vibrant.

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