Born in 1877 in Italy, Joseph Stella came to New York City to study medicine. Instead, he pursued art, earning notoriety in the teens for his Futurist works that show the icons of the modern city in fantastical, kaleidoscopic colors.
In 1913, Stella turned his eye toward Coney Island. Above is his rendering of Luna Park; below, “Battle of Lights, Coney Island.” Both were painted in 1913.
His style isn’t to everyone’s taste, but his increasingly geometric and abstract work depicts an energetic, industrialized 20th century city.
This view of the Brooklyn Bridge, below, dates to 1920. “Stella’s depictions of the Brooklyn Bridge feature the diagonal cables that sweep downward forcefully, providing directional energy,” according to the Phillips Collection.
“While these dynamic renderings of the Bridge suggest the excitement and motion of modern life, in Stella’s hands the image of the Bridge also becomes a powerful icon of stability and solidarity.”
Moving to Brooklyn in 1917, he found the borough freeing and inspiring.
“Brooklyn gave me a sense of liberation,'” Stella explained. ‘The vast view of her sky in opposition to the narrow one of New York was a relief—and at night, in her solitude, I used to find, intact, the green freedom of my own self.”