Capturing the magic of rainy nights in New York City

Hard rainy days in New York City can bring on a sense of melancholy—the grayness, the streets relatively empty of people, the steady pounding against windows.

But rain at night can hit the senses differently. Skies glow and obscure the skyline, and pavement slick with water almost twinkles under the lights of the city. There’s a painterly magic to it (if you’re not wrestling with an umbrella or trying to catch a cab, that is).

Few artists have captured this magic of a rainy New York night like Charles Hoffbauer. Born in France in 1875, Hoffbauer came to Gotham in the early 1900s, and with his Impressionist style painted many nocturnes of Manhattan under the spell of the rain.

These three Hoffbauer paintings are new discoveries for me. The exact date of each isn’t clear, but with both automobiles and horse-pulled carriages on the streets, I’d say the 1920s.

What part of New York is Hoffbauer showing us? Street signs and marquees are obscured, so it’s hard to know for sure. My guess is the theater district centered around Times Square.

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6 Responses to “Capturing the magic of rainy nights in New York City”

  1. Mark Says:

    Judging from the type of automobiles, I’d say you’re right. Lovely paintings!

  2. tom Says:

    Fanatastic work

  3. Greg Says:

    Wow, what a find! I love them all, but the bottom one in particular makes the era come alive for me in a way I’ve never experienced before.

  4. velovixen Says:

    Greg–I feel the same way.

    What I really love, especially about the last painting, is that Hoffbauer shows the city becoming, if you will, an Impressionist painting of itself in the rain. I’ve often felt that in, say, a Monet, the light becomes the colors, the colors become the forms and the forms become the objects or settings. In Hoffbauer’s paintings, the water–or at least the way reflections shimmer in it–become the city, if for a moment or an evening.

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      This is a really fascinating way to view the painting, VV. It’s giving me a different perspective on the Impressionists I love so much.

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