Posts Tagged ‘” New York street scenes’

A Bowery tinsmith paints his city of memory

February 13, 2017

Born in 1801, William Chappel was a Manhattan native who made a modest living as a tinsmith and resided with his wife and kids at 165 Bowery opposite the Bowery Theatre.

[“The Buttermilk Peddler,” location unknown]

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He was also an amateur painter (and the father of a more renowned artist, Alonzo Chappel). The elder Chappel’s depictions of day-to-day street life offer a fascinating peek at New Yorkers at work and at play in the city of approximately 1810.

At that time, Gotham’s population stood at less than 100,000, most residents lived in 2- or 3-story wooden houses, the urban core barely stretched past Canal Street, and conveniences such as clean water and mass transit were still pipe dreams.

[“The Baker’s Wagon,” Hester Street]

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Even without the amenities New Yorkers are long used to, life in the 1810 city isn’t so far off from the metropolis of today.

Peddlers sell food—buttermilk, strawberries, baked pears, bread. A watchman, one of the leather-helmeted patrolmen who predate the city’s first police force, walks his beat. Boats ferry people to Brooklyn from a dock at the end of Catherine Street.

[“City Watchman,” Elizabeth Street]

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Well-dressed women head to a tea party. Bathers wade into the cool water at Dandy Point, at today’s 13th Street. Shoppers buy meat and fish at a marketplace called the Fly (from the Dutch “Vly”) Market. Volunteer firemen attract admirers as they wash their engines on the Bowery.

[“Firemen’s Washing Day,” The Bowery]

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Chappel’s work in currently on exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which notes that the 27 small oil paintings on display were all done in the 1870s, decades after the time period they depict.

[“Tea Party,” Forsyth and Canal Streets]

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“Chappel’s images defy easy categorization because his practice and motivation remain elusive,” states a summary of the exhibit mounted beside the paintings.”

“Did Chappel produce these works, in all their minute detail, from older sketches or from youthful memories?”

[Bathing Party, 13th Street at East River]

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“One thing is certain: Chappel’s scenes offer a rare glimpse of early nineteenth-century New York and its diverse working-class communities as it began its tumultuous ascent to the United States’ financial capital.”

A French artist’s moody, magical New York

December 3, 2012

Born in Paris in 1875, Charles Constantin Hoffbauer studied under top 19th century French masters and painted scenes all over Europe.

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In New York on commission in 1906, he captured the city’s many moods: enchanting rain-slicked sidewalks in Times Square (below), the blue glow of twilight at Madison Square (above), and the festive lights blazing over a snow-covered Theater District (last painting).

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Hoffbauer’s city is on the move. Pedestrians dart between automobiles, and horse-drawn carriages and cars navigate traffic jams. These scenes all look like the occur at twilight, that in-between time when the workday ends and evening entertainment begins.

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These paintings were created between 1906 and 1927. Though he returned to his home country after his time in New York, Hoffbauer arrived in the U.S. for good in 1941, having escaped occupied France with an eye toward becoming an American citizen.

A street photographer captures the city in motion

November 6, 2012

Rudy Burckhardt arrived in New York in 1935. He was 21, born and raised in Switzerland, a medical school dropout determined to be an artist.

Though he painted and made short films, he’s known for his street photography: black and white shots of mid-century New Yorkers in motion amid a swirl of crowds and buildings, yet strangely alone in the modern urban landscape.

At right, he photographed friend and dance critic Edwin Denby on the roof of their apartment at 145 West 21st Street.

“[His] best artworks are the New York images from the ’40s, strange angled photographs shot from the tops of skyscrapers, or movements in the streets of Manhattan taken from the knees down,” wrote Valery Oisteanu on Artnet.com, for a retrospective of Burckhardt’s work exhibited in 2004 at the Tibor de Nagy gallery.

“He didn’t indulge in expressionist distortion, or depict grotesque sideshow freaks, but rather captured the melancholia of the metropolis,” wrote Oisteanu.

“The pedestrians in his snapshots execute a hectic choreography in navigating New York’s streets. It took the eye of a Swiss born New Yorker to sense the city’s pulse and its dramatic flair.”

Burckhardt, who served as the unofficial “house photographer” for New York School artists in the 1930s and who poet John Ashbery once called a “subterranean monument,” died in 1999 in Maine.

Near his home there, he committed suicide by drowning in a lake.

The “enigmatic emptiness” of a city sidewalk

October 25, 2012

“Edward Hopper’s haunting realist canvas evokes an enigmatic emptiness that has become the artist’s trademark,” states the caption accompanying this 1924 painting on the website of the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, Virginia.

“His sparsely populated New York cityscapes, bleak New England views, and lonely interiors share the same stark simplicity.”

“In New York Pavements Hopper used bold cropping, an elevated point of view, strong diagonal lines, and a simple, bleached palette to achieve an odd and detached effect.”

“From a bird’s-eye perspective, the only hint of narrative is the figure emerging from the lower left.”

It’s such an ordinary city scene yet so disquieting. Who is the nun with the baby carriage, and what neighborhood is this?

A moment of “quiet humanity” from Saul Leiter

February 9, 2012

Saul Leiter’s photographs capture bits and pieces of midcentury New York’s muted beauty—as seen here in 1957’s Phone Call.

Martin Harrison, the editor and author of the wonderful Saul Leiter Early Color, wrote, “He sought out moments of quiet humanity in the Manhattan maelstrom, forging a unique urban pastoral from the most unlikely of circumstances.”

“Evening Rain” on the elevated tracks

March 21, 2011

Artist Daniel Hauben captures twilight on a rain-slicked, empty subway platform in this color intaglio print.

It’s a timeless glimpse—is it 1938? 1958? The print actually dates to 1998, according to a wonderful book called Impressions of New York: Prints From the New-York Historical Society.

Anyone know which subway platform this is? I’m guessing the Bronx, but I’d love to know exactly where. Find out more about the artist here.

“Twilight in New York”

January 10, 2011

I’m not sure where this is, but Italian-American painter Alessandro Guaccimanni lived near Madison Square in the 1890s.

This ultra-fashionable neighborhood in Gilded Age New York is the setting of some of his other equally haunting and moody works. But it could be Union Square, even beside Central Park.