A painter in Astoria captures what he saw across the East River

When painters depict the East River, it’s usually from the Manhattan side: a steel bridge, choppy waters, and a Brooklyn or Queens waterfront either thick with factories or quaint and almost rural.

But when Richard Hayley Lever decided to paint the river in 1936, he did it from Astoria. What he captured in “Queensboro Bridge and New York From Astoria” (above) is a scene that on one hand comes across as quiet and serene—is that a horse and carriage in the foreground?—but with the business and industry of Manhattan looming behind.

This Impressionist artist gives us a view at about 60th Street; the bridge crosses at 59th, of course, and that gas tank sat at the foot of 61st Street through much of the 20th century.

Is the horse and carriage actually on Roosevelt Island or even still in Queens? Often these details can be found on museum and art or auction websites. Lever came to New York City from Australia in 1911 and taught at the Art Students League from 1919-1931, establishing a studio in the 1930s and teaching at other schools. But aside from this, I couldn’t find many details about his work.

He did paint the Queensboro Bridge and East River again though, as well as the High Bridge over the Harlem River and West 66th Street, among other New York locations. The title and date of the second image of the two ships is unknown right now. “Ship Under Brooklyn Bridge” (third image) is from 1958, the year he died after a life of artistic recognition and then financial difficulties, per this biography from Questroyal.

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4 Responses to “A painter in Astoria captures what he saw across the East River”

  1. Greg Says:

    An interesting obscure figure, thanks for highlighting! It is novel to see Impressionism applied to industrial scenes in NY.

  2. Greg Says:

    Also, as an aside, the Questroyal bio, while very interesting and worth reading, characterizes Mount Vernon as “upstate NY,” which is the most expansive definition I have ever seen.

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      I guess technically it’s upstate…but to most New Yorkers, upstate starts when MetroNorth trains end!

  3. Ginny Poleman Says:

    In the first painting, the building on the left, next to the bridge is on Roosevelt Island—the Storehouse, came down in 70s. The Bowery Boys has a photo of it on their page about Roosevelt Island

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