Posts Tagged ‘Lionel S. Reiss’

The castles and villages of 1914 Lower Manhattan

August 9, 2021

For a painting with such a perfunctory name, “Municipal and Woolworth Buildings, Lower Manhattan,” by Lionel S. Reiss, gives us a stunning look at a two-tiered city.

In the distance is the New York of concrete canyons and tall buildings reaching toward the heavens, ethereal and dreamlike. In the foreground are the the tenements of the people, in hearty earth tones that reflect the life and activity happening inside them.

Born in 1894 in Jaroslaw Poland, Reiss grew up on the Lower East Side; he would have had a front-row seat to the changing landscape around City Hall and the Financial District in the early 1900s. After working as a commercial artist in the 1920s, he traveled through Europe and North Africa, returning to New York City before World War II.

“One of the central themes of Reiss’ art was that of every day street life, replete with its class distinctions and social strata,” stated one source, a Jewish research archive that includes his work. In this 1914 painting, Reiss seems to be depicting class distinction by painting two skyscrapers as Medieval castles and the tenements as the village surrounding them.

Leaving Bloomingdale’s on the Third Avenue El

January 24, 2011

Painter Lionel S. Reiss’ 1946 watercolor, “Going Home (Near Bloomingdale’s and the 59th Street Elevated),” captures a crowd of mothers, shop girls, laborers, and businessmen ascending the packed staircase.

I love the piece of the Chop Suey sign on the right—a vestige of the New York of a long-ago time.