One summer night on a New York tenement roof

Saul Kovner was a Russia-born artist who came to New York City in the 1920s. After attending the National Academy of Design and setting up a studio on Central Park West, he worked for the WPA in the 1930s and 1940s.

Kovner captured gentle yet honest scenes in all seasons of urban life, particularly of working class and poor New Yorkers. In 1946, he completed “One Summer Night,” a richly detailed depiction of tenement dwellers seeking refuge from the heat in a pre- air conditioned city.

I’m not sure what part of the city we’re in, but you can just feel the sweat, discomfort, and frustration—that sense of being trapped, as these people are, on a tarry island that offers little relief.

“One Summer Night” gives us a situation any New Yorker living in the city in a tenement can relate to. No wonder so many social realist artists have painted or illustrated similar scenes in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Here’s how John Sloan, Everett Shinn, and some wonderful unidentified illustrators captured the “fiery furnace” of a New York heat wave.

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6 Responses to “One summer night on a New York tenement roof”

  1. pontifikator Says:

    I’m old enough to remember sleeping on the fire escape at my grandmother’s apartment on W. 75th street on the Upper West Side one very hot summer night.

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      And I’m sure you weren’t the only kid on the block sleeping on the fire escape; it seemed to be a common thing on the hottest nights.

  2. One summer night on a New York tenement roof — Ephemeral New York – yellow in grey Says:

    […] One summer night on a New York tenement roof — Ephemeral New York […]

  3. judith sokoloff Says:

    They didn’t call it tar beach for nothing!

    On Mon, Jun 28, 2021, 1:11 AM Ephemeral New York wrote:

    > ephemeralnewyork posted: ” Saul Kovner was a Russia-born artist who came > to New York City in the 1920s. After attending the National Academy of > Design and setting up a studio on Central Park West, he worked for the WPA > in the 1930s and 1940s. Kovner captured gentle yet hone” >

  4. Tom Dulski Says:

    Anyone remember the tv commercial featuring the login spoonful summer in the city? it ran all the time in the mid to late 70’s. I think it might have been for the 4H club.

  5. momo Says:

    wonderful….I can feel the heat when you can hardly breathe

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