The painter who captured the soul of New York

New York right now feels like it’s at a crossroads. People are fearful of walking the streets with the threat of a virus literally in the air. Subway problems, homelessness…the city doesn’t always seem to be working.

To restore your faith in Gotham, take a look at these paintings by Alfred S. Mira, whose vivid street scenes of the 1930s and 1940s city capture the life, passion, and activity inherent in New York’s soul.

Mira wasn’t a native New Yorker. Born in Italy in 1900, he came to New York as a boy with an “insatiable desire to draw,” as he put it.

Despite his parents’ misgivings, he embarked on a long career as an artist, painting cityscapes (many of his own neighborhood, Greenwich Village) depicting the day-to-day street life New Yorkers relate to and thrive on.

His style is sometimes Impressionist, but his vision of New York was one of realism. He painted the city “the way busy people see it…None of those breathtaking shots cameramen contrive of towers and infinity, which no New Yorker sees in actuality,” he said.

Mira’s paintings capture something real and remarkable about city life—the stunning palette of colors from buildings and roads, the hidden views from el trains and windows, the ordinary exchanges New Yorkers have on sidewalks with one another.

“The lure of the outdoors always attracted me, especially the city streets with their movements, color and depth—they were the things that inspired me and which I painted as they looked and as I felt them,” he said.

This site has featured Mira’s work before, and it’s the right time to present him again. Let his work remind you of what makes New York great and why you don’t ever want to leave.

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15 Responses to “The painter who captured the soul of New York”

  1. Frederick Brosrn Says:

    Thank you for the post on Mira’s paintings, I was unfamiliar with them. I myself have been painting NYC for over 40 years, you may enjoy looking at my Instagram, where I have been posting my NYC watercolors during this pandemic shutdown. A reminder of the the great architectural richness we often take for granted. Thank you, Frederick Brosen

  2. chas1133 Says:

    So many great artists chose to paint the city. I am so glad there is enduring work that always represents the true soul of her…imo..

  3. N Anderson Says:

    Thanks for this Mira extravaganza. What a joy to see a NYC outdoors! Ah. Light! The geometry of the built environment. Less traffic

    But happy to know that NYC turned Washington Square Park into a car free zone decades ago

  4. Kenny Says:

    Stunning paintings! I am also stunned by the car driving under the Arch and the bus traffic in Washington Square …

  5. countrypaul Says:

    Once upon a time you could drive through Washington Square.
    Thank you for this collection; I want a print of each for my living room! (Wish I could afford the originals….)

  6. Bill Wolfe Says:

    Thank you for introducing me to this wonderful painter! He really understood the city. You’re right – he used the techniques of Impressionism to capture the essence of mid-century urban America.

  7. countrypaul Says:

    Mykola, it was well before my time!

  8. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Glad these have been so well received! I am stunned that Mira isn’t better known, but that is the case with so many artists.

    And yep, traffic used to go through Washington Square. In the 1950s, Robert Moses even tried to put a highway through the Square, but locally the neighborhood battled that down and ended up closing the park off to traffic in 1959.

  9. Dan Says:

    I’m probably mistaken, but it almost looks like the people in the large Washington Sq painting (with the view down 5th) are wearing red face masks.

  10. Alexei Says:

    The first two painting are of MacDougal Street & W 8th Street.

  11. Sommer Molt Says:

  12. The “romantic reality” of midcentury Village street scenes | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] New Yorkers are feeling this spring is hard to describe—but Alfred Mira captures it perfectly in his paintings. Born in Italy in 1900, Mira made his home in Greenwich Village and supported himself as an […]

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