Gilded Age Manhattan aglow in a rainy twilight

UPDATE: Turns out this painting is probably not Columbus Circle, as Artnet had it; it looks like opposite Madison Square. Thanks to eagle-eyed ENY readers for catching]

Columbus Circle in the 1890s must have dazzled the senses.

The towering granite monument that gave the Circle its name was unveiled in 1892. On one side was the entrance to the carriage lanes and horse paths of Central Park, and on the other could be heard the “uninterrupted whirr” of the Broadway cable cars heading downtown, as Stephen Crane described it.

Stylish electric street lights illuminated the Circle with globes of sunshine. The Theater District was now just blocks away to the south; the new apartment houses and townhouse blocks of what was still known as the West End were rising to the north.

And a mostly forgotten artist named William Louis Sonntag, Jr. captured the din and dazzle in this painting, giving us a view of twilight at Columbus Circle on a rainy, magical night.

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11 Responses to “Gilded Age Manhattan aglow in a rainy twilight”

  1. keenanpatrick424 Says:

    Painting captures misty shadowy rainfall contrasted with the plate glass like reflective pavement. The recent renovation of C.C. is well done. Now if only the skate boarders could be banished.

  2. Columbus Circle in the glow of a rainy twilight | News for New Yorkers Says:

    […] Source: FS – 898253 Columbus Circle in the glow of a rainy twilight […]

  3. John Cooper Says:

    This looks more like the Worth Monument at Madison Square Park?

  4. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Wow, now I really see it, and it does look like the Worth monument. Artnet has it as Columbus Circle:

  5. AdamB Says:

    This is the Worth Monument at 25th near Madison Square Park, not the Columbus Circle Monument.

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      Thank you—a correction is coming. I should have known but the cable/trolley cars look so much like the ones coming down Broadway at 59th Street…and the painting was mislabeled.

  6. Bob Says:

    Among his writings about Sonntag, in 1919 author Theodore Dreiser published a profile called ‘W.L.S.’ of his good friend Sonntag, in a book called “Twelve Men”. In it he alludes to this painting.

    “[…] I first called upon W.L. S—-, Jr., in the winter of 1895. I had known of him before only by reputation, or, what is nearer the truth, by seeing his name in one of the great Sunday papers attached to several drawings of the most lively interest. These drawings depicted night scenes of the city of New York, and appeared as colored supplements, eleven by eighteen inches. They represented the spectacular scenes which the citizen and the stranger most delight in–Madison Square in a drizzle; the Bowery lighted by a thousand lamps and crowded with “L” and surface cars; Sixth Avenue looking north from Fourteenth Street. […]”

  7. David H Lippman Says:

    Great painting!

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