Posts Tagged ‘Social Realist painters New York City’

Old New York and the contemporary city collide

February 19, 2018

Looming skyscrapers and small buildings come together in this painting of a snowy city under pink-gray skies and thick chimney smoke by Everett Longley Warner.

The painting is undated, but Longley lived in New York between 1903 and 1924, according to one biography.

Mystery and misery in a forgotten painter’s city

February 22, 2016

John R. Grabach didn’t just paint scenes of working-class life—he was the working class. [Below, “New York Street Scene: Man Made Canyons”]


Born in 1886, Grabach grew up in blue collar Newark. Set on becoming an artist, he held various jobs—die cutter, freelance illustrator, greeting card designer—while taking classes in Newark and at the Art Students League in Manhattan.

[“Sidewalks of New York,” 1920s, Lower East Side]


“Inspired by Ash Can school artists, Grabach became fascinated with the urban landscape,” the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) wrote on their website.

[“The Lone House,” 1929]


Like Ash Can artists George Bellows and Robert Henri, he began working in New York in the 1920s, where he painted everyday images of tenements, clotheslines, skyscrapers, and city streets.

Grabach’s work reflected the beauty and mystery of contemporary urban life, as well as its disorienting loneliness and despair.

[“New York East Side,” 1924]


“Toward the end of the decade his lighthearted treatment changed as he became more concerned with social conditions, and consequently during the Great Depression his urban images developed a stronger, satirical tone, and the figures were made larger and dominated the scene,” stated LACMA.

[“The Fifth Year,” 1934]


By now, he’d won awards and recognition, and he became a beloved teacher of drawing at the now-defunct Newark School of Fine and Industrial Art (a casualty of Newark’s budget woes in the 1990s).

JohnGheadshotBut like so many other artists, Grabach gradually lost prominence and never became a household name. He died in relative obscurity in 1981.

He may not have been a trailblazer in the art world, but his work reflects an unappreciated sensitivity to the urban experience.

A 1930s painter’s coarse, crowded Coney Island

June 6, 2013

Social realist painter Reginald Marsh frequently depicted soldiers, sailors, floozies, burlesque dancers, moviegoers, bums, and other colorful characters that populated New York in the first half of the 20th century.


And he had a special fondness for Coney Island—the rougher edges of the boardwalk and beach, that is, filled with garish sideshows (“Pip and Flip,” from 1932, above), skimpy bathing suits, the promise of fun and adventure on a five-cent carnival ride.


[Above: “Wonderland Circus, Sideshow Coney Island,” 1930]

“Marsh explained that he was drawn to Coney Island ‘because of the sea, the open air, and the crowds—crowds of people in all directions, without clothing, moving—like the great compositions of Michelangelo and Rubens,'” according to this recent piece on Marsh on the Smithsonian Institution’s blog.


[Above: “Geroge C. Tilyou’s Steeplechase Park,” 1932]

It’s a part of Coney Island that hasn’t been totally erased with all the new development. You can still catch in glimpses.