Posts Tagged ‘New York’

Who is taking the steam ferry to Brooklyn in 1836

February 10, 2020

This was how you crossed the East River in the 1830s: by a steam-powered ferry sporting an American flag and a belching smokestack. Perhaps you’d be accompanied by some horses, one attached to a covered wagon.

That’s what this hand-colored 1836 engraving from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, by G.K. Richardson after William Henry Bartlett, tells us. It’s simply titled, “The Ferry at Brooklyn, New York.”

You might take this river crossing all in stride and not demonstrate any excitement about it, as the ladies talking in a circle on the left side of the ferry seem to be doing. Or the ferry ride might thrill you or make you ponder things, as you rest against the railing like the figures on the right.

Go to the Smithsonian site via the link above and use the zoom button to really see the ferry riders.

A painter’s stormy view of the Flatiron Building

November 4, 2019

Born during the Civil War in Chicago, Frank Coburn made a name for himself after the turn of the century as an Impressionist landscape painter, known for his moody scenes of Los Angeles and the desert and mountains of Southern California.

But Coburn also painted New York as well. In 1921, he depicted the Flatiron Building, Fifth Avenue, Broadway, and the edge of Madison Square Park during a rainstorm: slick streets, bare tree branches, a lone figure under an umbrella…and a sky glowing yellow.

“New York, a Landscape,” is at the Bowers Museum in Orange County, California.

The old city along the East River waterfront

February 8, 2016

Everett Longley Warner’s “Along the River Front” captures the city in 1912 on the cusp of change.

Everettlongleywarner

The old New York waterfront, one of horse-drawn wagons loaded with packages heading to small commercial fish dealers and the office of a steamship line, have been dwarfed by the modern city’s enormous bridges and the traffic they carry.

Pier201900This photo, from 1900, gives an idea of what Warner was looking at. He changed the name of the steamship line from the New Haven Line to the Maine Line, for unknown reasons.

Warner was an impressionist painter who lived in New York in the early 1900s. Despite early notoriety, his lovely depictions of industry and commerce in the city haven’t made him a household name.

The grand murals adorning city office buildings

May 14, 2012

It’s a treat to walk into a nondescript commercial building tucked away on a Manhattan side street, then be greeted by an elaborate scene painted on a lobby wall or ceiling.

Rockefeller Center’s murals are famous, of course. But lesser-known murals from the first half of the 20th century still survive—like at the lovely St. James Building, opened in 1896 on Broadway and 26th Street.

The building’s website tells us that the mural was painted by a French decorating firm called Arthur Brounet, “one of the few remaining of the dozens of originals that adorned Manhattan theaters, hotels, and residences.

This transportation- and industry-themed mural feels very 1920s or 1930s. It adorns the lobby of 322 Eighth Avenue, which appears to have been constructed in the late 1920s.

I’ll take a guess and say that the theme reflected the type of business headquartered there, but I couldn’t find anything on the original tenants.

“Horse Drawn Cabs at Evening, New York”

March 8, 2012

In 1890, Frederick Childe Hassam depicted Madison Square, then a trendy, fashionable area, obscured by rain and twilight.

It’s not the first time he painted this stretch of the city in inclement weather.

The woman on the left has an umbrella, but the drivers of the horse-drawn cabs have to rely on their top hats to keep the rain away.