Posts Tagged ‘New York in 1930’

“The subway is a microcosm of New York City”

November 19, 2018

We may never know what printmaker Harry Sternberg was thinking when he etched this rich, detailed scene inside a city subway car (appropriately titled “Subway Car”) in 1930.

But I like Nicole Viglini’s take on a web page published by Smith College Museum of Art in 2015: that Sternberg, who was born on the Lower East Side in 1904 and as a kid took free art classes at the Brooklyn Museum, depicted a microcosm of New York City.

“Though people from many different walks of life are present together, they do not directly interact with one another,” Viglini wrote. “A couple chats in the foreground, and a few shady-looking men look askance; everyone else seems to be absorbed in their own thoughts.”

“The ads above the seats remind the viewer of the busy commercial madhouse above ground. Within the confines of the subway car, hurtling through tunnels beneath the chaotic city, there is a measure of calm and a respite for people to regain some modicum of control.”

The apartment rooftop that hosted Henri Matisse

August 13, 2018

French Modernist painter Henri Matisse has many of his still lifes, figures, and landscapes on display in New York’s most distinguished museums.

But there’s only one place in Manhattan where a little-known framed photo of Matisse is always on display, with the Depression-era city skyline behind him.

You can see it yourself if the doorman decides to give you a peek.

The black and white photo, from 1930, is in the small lobby of 10 Mitchell Place, a charming 13-story prewar apartment house built in 1928 that was originally called Stewart Hall.

Never heard of Mitchell Place? It’s a secret sliver of a street running from First Avenue to Beekman Place in a quiet neighborhood of old world charm—perfect for an artist more accustomed to Nice than New York.

In the photo, Matisse is sitting in a chair on the building’s brick roof terrace. With his left hand holding his bearded chin, the artist looks contemplative amid a backdrop of apartment buildings, water towers, and the Queensboro Bridge.

What brought Matisse to Mitchell Place? I wonder if he’s in New York visiting his son.

Pierre Matisse moved to New York in the 1920s to become an art dealer and opened a renowned art gallery in the Fuller Building on East 57th Street.

Apparently Matisse came to Mitchell Place often, according to a 2014 New York Times article on one-block streets.

“The painter Henri Matisse was a frequent visitor to the charming roof deck at 10 Mitchell Place, a.k.a. Stewart Hall. There, a framed 1930 photograph in the 1928 co-op’s equally charming lobby, which has a large fireplace, shows him resting on a canvas deck chair, pondering the East River views.”

Sleet and snowy stoops on a West Side street

February 4, 2013

Australian-born Martin Lewis’ “Stoops in the Snow” dates to 1930—and it perfectly balances the still beauty of a New York snowfall with the miserable struggle that ensues while trying to navigate it.

This scene could depict almost any residential New York block, with its uniform brownstone steps and elevated train platform in the distance.

Stoopsinthesnow

Luckily Lewis’ original title for the etching, “Stoops in the Snow, West 40s,” narrows down the neighborhood for us.

Lewis tends to keep the locations of his etchings vague, as he did with this piece depicting a busy workday morning somewhere in the city.

Under an arch in Astoria at midnight, 1930

May 21, 2012

Martin Lewis titled this drypoint etching Arch, Midnight. The people under the arch don’t look like they’re up to much good.

He reportedly considered two alternate titles, “Archway, Midnight” and “The Arch Over the Street, Astoria.”

Does anyone know where exactly this dark, shadowy underpass is in Astoria, and if it still exists?

Plans for New York that never came to pass

October 14, 2011

Developers are always coming up with shiny new proposals for a smarter, better, more future-focused city.

Thanks to the city’s bureaucracy, financial downturns, as well as the sheer ridiculousness of some of these ideas, most never seem to get past the sketch stage.

But it’s fun to see what could have been—like this 130-story telescope-looking structure, one of 11 proposals received by the city in 1985 to redevelop the site of the Coliseum at Columbus Circle.

Popular Science‘s very cool PopSci blog has a great writeup on it, based on their original 1985 article about the tower.

Of course, the Coliseum did get the boot, replaced by the less rocketship-like Time Warner Center in 2003.

I really like the look of this Art Deco cityscape sketch. But for the Lower East Side? I’m glad it didn’t happen.

This was the original design of the Chrystie-Forsyth Parkway, a four-lane sunken drive between Chrystie and Forsyth Streets from Houston Street to the Manhattan Bridge.

Bridges built over the parkway would accommodate traffic. Skyscrapers and high-rises would replace tenements.

Dreamed up in 1931, Mayor Jimmy Walker disregarded it and opened Sara Roosevelt Park here instead.