Posts Tagged ‘Saul Kovner WPA Painter’

One summer night on a New York tenement roof

June 28, 2021

Saul Kovner was a Russia-born artist who came to New York City in the 1920s. After attending the National Academy of Design and setting up a studio on Central Park West, he worked for the WPA in the 1930s and 1940s.

Kovner captured gentle yet honest scenes in all seasons of urban life, particularly of working class and poor New Yorkers. In 1946, he completed “One Summer Night,” a richly detailed depiction of tenement dwellers seeking refuge from the heat in a pre- air conditioned city.

I’m not sure what part of the city we’re in, but you can just feel the sweat, discomfort, and frustration—that sense of being trapped, as these people are, on a tarry island that offers little relief.

“One Summer Night” gives us a situation any New Yorker living in the city in a tenement can relate to. No wonder so many social realist artists have painted or illustrated similar scenes in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Here’s how John Sloan, Everett Shinn, and some wonderful unidentified illustrators captured the “fiery furnace” of a New York heat wave.