Posts Tagged ‘Upper Manhattan paintings’

An Impressionist artist captures the rural feel of early 1900s Upper Manhattan

December 27, 2021

Throughout his life, painter Ernest Lawson lived in many places. Born in Halifax in 1873, Lawson moved to New York at 18 to take classes at the Art Students League.

“High Bridge at Night, New York City”

Over the years he studied and worked in Connecticut, Paris, Colorado, Spain, New Mexico, and finally Florida, where his body was found on Miami Beach in 1939—possibly a homicide or suicide.

“Shadows, Spuyten Duyvil Hill”

But if there was one location that seemed to intrigue him, it was Upper Manhattan—the bridges and houses, the woods, rugged terrain, and of course, the rivers.

“Ice in the RIver”

From 1898 to about 1908, while fellow Ashcan School artists focused their attention on crowded sidewalks and gritty tenements, Lawson lived in sparsely populated Washington Heights, drawing out the rural beauty and charm of the last part of Manhattan to be subsumed into the cityscape.

“Boathouse, Winter, Harlem River”

“Less committed to social realism than his peers, his works are more remarkable for their treatment of color and light than their social relevance,” states the National Gallery of Canada.

“A House in the Snow, the Dyckman House”

Lawson’s Upper Manhattan is an enchanting, often romantic place, which he rendered in “thick impasto, strong outlines, and bold colors,” according to Artsy.com. His nocturnes reflect the seasonal beauty of still-extant spots like the High Bridge, Harlem River, Spuyten Duyvil, and the Dyckman Farmhouse (the last Dutch colonial-style farmhouse in Manhattan).

“The Harlem River (Rivershacks)”

Though one critic described him as “a painter of crushed jewels,” according to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA), and another noted his “peculiar power of finding sensuous beauty in dreary places,” Lawson never found fame like Ashcan painters George Luks and John Sloan.

Portrait of Ernest Lawson by fellow Ashcan artist William Glackens

“Despite great acclaim from certain critics, Lawson remained under-appreciated in his lifetime, and was often depressed and struggling financially,” per PAFA. His name may not be well-known, but Lawson captured the mood and feel of Upper Manhattan’s landmarks and landscape just before urbanization arrived.

An artist paints the end of rural Upper Manhattan

October 1, 2018

Upper Manhattan was the last part of the island to be developed, and well into the late 19th and even early 20th century, large swaths of Harlem, Washington Heights, and Inwood still retained a rural character—with woods, fishing boats, even cow pastures.

That unspoiled, bucolic feel is apparently what drew Gustav Wolff to the upper reaches of the city.

Wolff, a German-born landscape painter who studied in St. Louis with Impressionist Paul Cornoyer, arrived in New York in 1917, according to the St. Louis Historical Art Project.

His turned his eye toward “grittier scenes of industrial and urban landscapes,” according to the SLHAP. But it’s his landscapes of a more natural Upper Manhattan that stand out.

The painting at top, “Close of Day, Harlem,” gives us a snow-covered tract of land, with a row of new, encroaching tenements not far behind.

The second image, “Harlem River Factories, New York,” dates to 1894, likely done during an early visit to Gotham. On the eve of the 20th century, Wolff captured a few smokestacks and warehouses amid tugboats and small houses dotting the shoreline.

The steel arch Washington Bridge is clearly recognizable in the next painting, “Washington Heights Bridge, New York.” Opened in 1888, it still stands, linking 181st Street to Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx.

Dyckman Street was a country road in colonial New York—named after the Dyckman family, the Dutch farmers who built the sandstone Dyckman Farmhouse on Broadway and 204th Street, now a museum.

In Wolff’s painting above, “Dyckman Street Docks, Manhattan,” the farms are gone, but urbanization hasn’t yet arrived.

Fort Tryon Park is one of the last vestiges of Upper Manhattan’s rural past. Here, Wolff painted what appear to be children on the rock outcroppings at the Overlook, with tenements and creeping industrialization in the distance.

The overlook lent its name to Overlook Terrace in Hudson Heights, and thanks to the Fort Tryon Park Trust, you can experience it without getting up from your screen.