Posts Tagged ‘Art Students League NYC’

An immigrant printmaker and painter gives color and light to Depression-era New York City

November 21, 2022

Max Arthur Cohn was a prolific 20th century artist of many mediums. But whether a silkscreen print, oil painting, mural, or lithograph, Cohn’s work imbues nuanced scenes of midcentury New York City with bursts of color and Ashcan-inspired realism.

(“Rainy Day/Victor Food Shop,” date unknown, seriograph)

His early years echo those of so many early 20th century immigrants. Born in London in 1903 to Russian parents, Cohn and his family settled in America two years later, moving to Cleveland and then Kingston, New York. At 17, he landed his first art-related job in New York City: making commercial silkscreens.

(“New York Street Scene,” 1935, oil)

Silkscreening seemed to become Cohn’s creative focus. At the Art Students League—where he studied under John Sloan—he’s thought to have made his first artistic screenprint, according to the Annex Galleries. In 1940, he founded the National Serigraph Society (a serigraph is another word for a silkscreen print) and exhibited his prints in New York galleries.

Cohn, who spent much of his long life residing in Gotham, is also credited with teaching a young Andy Warhol the silkscreening process in the 1960s, according to Sotheby’s.

(“Washington Square,” 1928, oil)

During the Depression, Cohn found employment at the Works Progress Administration. The small stipend the WPA paid to artists must have been welcome support during these lean years of national financial uncertainty.

“In 1934, as part of the New Deal, he was selected as one of the artists for the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) and from 1936-1939 the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Easel Project,” states arts agency

(“Hooverville Depression Scene,” 1938, oil)

The work featured in this post don’t reflect Cohn’s later artistic style, which became more abstract. Instead, they reveal an artist with a sensitivity to New York City’s rhythms and moods from the 1920s to 1940s.

I’ve read a fair amount about Cohn, and what strikes me most is that he doesn’t seem to belong to any one school. Art historians have described him as a pointillist, modernist, and American scene artist. I see the influence of the post-Impressionists and the Ashcan School, sometimes with a Hopper-esque quality as well.

(“New York City Subway,” 1940s, oil)

There’s no need to categorize him. However you’d describe his style, Cohn—who died in 1998 at age 95—gives us a long-gone midcentury Manhattan of oil drums, el trains, and corner gas stations bathed in magical color.

[First, second, and third images: Invaluable; fourth image: Milwaukee Museum Mile; fifth image: 1stDibs]

The seedier side of Broadway by a 1930s painter

October 19, 2020

Cigarette ads, a burlesque house, a struggling theater, a flea circus and freak show (likely Hubert’s Museum): If you visited 42nd Street on the west side of Broadway at Times Square in 1932, this is what you’d find.

“42nd Street West of Broadway” was painted that year by Edmund Yaghjian, an Armenian immigrant who depicted daytime scenes of the 1930s cityscape and nocturnes that showcased the Depression-era Art Deco feel of the New York at the time.

After studying and then teaching at the Art Students League, Yaghjian took a teaching job in 1942 that forced him to leave Gotham for South Carolina, according to The Johnson Collection in Spartanburg, SC.

His New York City, the city of almost 90 years ago, is on view online at Artnet.

A midcentury artist’s New York from her window

May 13, 2019

Born in 1887 in Vienna, Emma Fordyce MacRae grew up in early 20th century New York—attending the private Chapin and Brearley Schools before enrolling in the Art Students League in 1911 and studying with John Sloan.

She made a name for herself as a member of the Philadelphia Ten, a group of female artists who exhibited together.

As the 20th century went on, MacRae married and moved to 888 Park Avenue. She apparently never stopped painting, keeping a studio at 12 West 69th Street, according to her New York Times obituary in 1974.

“New York From My Window” was painted between 1957 and 1962. It’s a deceptively simple work depicting a streetscape under blue skies almost empty of traffic and people.

What I want to know is, where exactly is the window she painted from, and what sliver of New York did this artist who should be better known immortalize?