Posts Tagged ‘Precisionist painters’

Bold shapes and colors of a 1930s El station

January 23, 2014

Francis Criss’ “Third Avenue El” depicts an austere elevated station in 1933 devoid of people and trains. The coolness of the design contrasts with the warmth of colors.

ThirdavenueelCriss

Criss, usually described as a precisionist painter, created Depression-era urban cityscapes marked by bold colors and geometric shapes.

The subjects of these two downtown New York paintings still look the same almost a century later.

The modern metropolis of Georgia O’Keeffe

November 18, 2013

If Georgia O’Keeffe to you means gauzy flowers and southwestern motifs, take a look at her Modernist depictions of the cityscape in the 1920s.

[below, “East River From the 30th Story of the Shelton Hotel,” 1928]

Okeeffeastriverfromshelton

Born in Wisconsin in 1887, O’Keeffe studied at the Art Students League in 1907, then came back to New York a few years later to attend Teachers College.

 She returned once again in 1918 to live with photographer Alfred Stieglitz, who had been impressed by her charcoal drawings and forged a relationship with her through letters.

[Below, “East River No 1,” 1927]

Okeeffeeastriverfromtheshelton1926

The two married six years later, after Stieglitz’s divorce was finalized. They lived together in the Shelton Hotel at 49th Street and Lexington Avenue, and from her window O’Keeffe began painting the New York skyline.

“Although O’Keeffe’s paintings of skyscrapers might appear simplistic, their power lies in the perspective O’Keeffe employs in her technique,” explains this link from the University of Virginia.

[Below, “New York Night,” 1928-1929]

Okeeffenewyorkatnight

“Her paintings often times used the vantage point of being on the ground and looking up which conveys a sense of wonder an individual might experience while craning one’s neck to look up at the awe-inspiring skyscraper.

Georgiaokeeffe“In contrast, O’Keeffe’s subtle use of light in New York Night conveys a sense of warmth and life inherent in the city.

“Although the majority of the painting is comprised of dark buildings, the lighted windows in the skyscrapers and the lighted street area in the lower left-hand corner of the painting are suggestive of the living beings who breathe life into the city on a daily basis.”

O’Keeffe also painted the Radiator Building in Bryant Park, all glowing embers.

[O’Keeffe in 1918, photo taken by Alfred Stieglitz]

A 1930s painter’s stark, austere New York City

August 2, 2012

“I attempt to capture the layers and depth of the city’s environment, not paint it brick by brick,” stated painter Francis Criss.

The cleanness of his work is in stark contrast to Depression-era New York’s poverty and uncertainty.

Both City Landscape (1934), above, and Astor Place (1932), below, have the sharply defined geometric forms and austere, almost sanitized look characteristic of the Precisionist painters.

The Precisionists emerged in the 1920s and 1930s, and they focused on the urban landscapes of a growing, industrialized nation.

His style won’t resonate with everyone. But his New York street scenes—one of two nuns standing in front of today’s Kmart, the other of the Port Authority Building rising on lower Eighth Avenue—are instantly recognizable 80 years later.