An Impressionist painter’s Christmas in Madison Square Park

Paul Cornoyer’s work has been featured in Ephemeral New York in several earlier posts; this Impressionist artist originally from St. Louis was captivated by the Gilded Age city’s energy and vitality, as well as the beauty of its parks.

Cornoyer depicted Madison Square Park many times. But to my knowledge, “Christmas in Madison Square Park” is the only painting of his that captures what appears to be New York City’s first official park Christmas tree.

The tree—a 60-footer from the Adirondacks—made its debut in Madison Square on December 21, 1912, lit with 1,200 colored lights donated by the Edison company. It was such a hit, decorated Christmas trees soon became the norm in many city parks and squares.

I haven’t been able to confirm the date of the painting. Cornoyer moved to New York City in 1899 and spent several years here, so if the tree in this nocturne isn’t the very first park Christmas tree, it’s likely to be one of the firsts.

What a beauty it is, next to what could be the tower of Madison Square Garden in the blue glow of a winter’s night!

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17 Responses to “An Impressionist painter’s Christmas in Madison Square Park”

  1. chas1133 Says:

    Love this!

  2. Shayne Davidson Says:

    How lovely! Hats off to a fellow St. Louisan!

  3. Donald Thomasco Says:

    The Bowery Boys podcast was just discussing this first tree, before Rockefeller Center’s. It’s a beautiful painting; definitely gives me the Christmas spirit.

  4. Deborah L Shaver Says:

    Just a beautiful painting of Christmas in NYC.

  5. VirginiaLB Says:

    What a beautiful Christmas card that would make! Is it in a museum? Thank you for sharing this lovely painting?

  6. Peter Delaunay Says:

    And a very happy Christmas to you, ENY – and all your followers

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      Thanks so much, happy Christmas to you too! I was going to hold this painting until December 25, but it’s so striking I just couldn’t wait to share it.

  7. Fred Montefeltro Says:

    Which church is that? I’m not seeing it in my mind’s eye.

  8. Gary Says:

    I lived near the park for many years. I can’t remember a church within view there If this is looking northeast I think it is more likely the original Madison Square Garden.

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      Yes I think you are right; I’ve updated the text to reflect that this is likely part of the Stanford White-designed MSQ.

  9. chas1133 Says:

    I wonder what it sold for…

  10. velovixen Says:

    My favorite paintings of this city in days gone by are the ones that capture the particular light of a place and time, or of people in a moment. This painting does both. Thank you!

  11. Holiday vibes beginning to move in on us | New York Social Diary Says:

    […] those interested in history in general and the history of New York, the Ephemeral New York is an excellent informer and teacher. It also brings you closer to your own place in New […]

  12. Holiday vibes beginning to move in on us | New York Social Diary - Travel News Update Says:

    […] those interested in history in general and the history of New York, the Ephemeral New York is an excellent informer and teacher. It also brings you closer to your own place in New […]

  13. countrypaul Says:

    Missed this post when first put up. Beautiful tree. Happy New Year – and yes, please may it be!!!

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