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New York, New York: The 20th Century

February 13 - April 10, 2011



New York, New York: The 20th Century invites visitors to explore and celebrate the incomparable life, architecture and landscape of New York City. New York, New York, opening February 13, 2011, features over 50 paintings, photographs, sculptures and works on paper that capture New York's unique metropolitan sphere and its inhabitants. The exhibition documents this remarkable city, while complementing the Wichita Art Museum's own collection of New York-based images. Both the exhibition and the Museum present important examples of works by some of America's best known artists like Stuart Davis, Edward Hopper and Guy Wiggins. In addition, the exhibition expands the Museum's collection by including prints, photographs, and sculpture by such artists as Oskar Kokoschka, Andreas Feininger, Rube Goldberg and Berenice Abbott. (right: Andreas Feininger (American, born France, 1906-1999) Midtown Manhattan from Weehawken, New Jersey, 1942. Gelatin silver print. Gift of Wysse Feininger in memory of her husband Andreas, 2000.56)

Originally consisting only of Manhattan Island, New York City was re-chartered in 1898 to include the five present-day boroughs of Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. The imagery in the exhibition New York, New York is centered on some of the most notable and beloved features of the city which can be seen in each of the five themes. "On the Waterfront" pairs the docks and shipping industry, while "Avenues and Streets" transports the viewer to the sidewalks of New York. Central Park, the most visited city park in America, is prominently represented throughout "In the Park" and "On the Town" features some of the seemingly endless possibilities for entertainment in the city. Finally, "Tall Buildings" highlights the very core of New York, the steel and stone of its buildings. New York, New York, The 20th Century brings a taste of the vibrant life of the big city, to the heartland of America.

As a tribute to the exhibition, the Museum will hold a special presentation on Sunday, February, 27 at 2 pm in the Howard Wooden Lecture Hall. The Museum will feature an actress interpreting the life of the late, famed artist Louise Nevelson -- an enigmatic fixture in New York's art world. The performance is free to the public, with paid admission, but space is limited.

New York, New York! The 20th Century was organized by the Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida.


Introductory wall text


Founded by the Dutch as New Amsterdam in 1624, New York City was renamed by the English in honor of the Duke of York. It is the largest city in the United States and a financial and cultural center. Originally consisting only of Manhattan Island, it was re-chartered in 1898 to include the five present-day boroughs of Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.
New York, New York: The 20th Century invites you into the incomparable life, architecture and landscape of New York City. Conceived as a counterpoint to George Segal: Street Scenes -- an exhibition of 16 urban tableaux by one of the most important and influential American artists of the 20th century -- this exhibition features paintings, photographs, sculptures and works on paper that capture New York's unique metropolitan sphere and the human interaction with it.
The imagery presented here is centered on some of the most notable and beloved features of the city which can be seen in each of the five themes. "On the Waterfront" pairs the docks and shipping industry with views of the Hudson. Central Park, the most visited city park in America, is prominently represented throughout "In the Park," with examples such as a bronze head of Alice by José de Creeft from the famous Alice in Wonderland sculpture. "Avenues and Streets" transports the viewer to the sidewalks of New York, from Wall Street to Fifth Avenue. "On the Town" features the seemingly endless possibilities for entertainment in the city, and "Tall Buildings" highlights the very core of New York, the glass, steel and stone of its buildings.

Object labels from the exhibition


Oskar Kokoschka (Austrian, 1886-1980)
Manhattan (Statue of Liberty), 1967
Lithograph on paper
Gift of Mr. R. B. Kitaj through the Ackerman Foundation, 88.66.2
Worldwide the Statue of Liberty is one of the most recognizable icons of the United States. From 1886 until the age of airplanes, it was often the first glimpse of the US for millions of immigrants and returning visitors traveling by ship from Europe. Officially titled Liberty Enlightening the World, the gargantuan monument was presented by France to the American people in 1886 as a centennial celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and as a representation of the friendship between the two countries established during the American Revolution.
Dorothy Norman (American, 1905-1997)
New York Harbor, from the portfolio "Intimate Visions," 1932
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Ian H. Zwicker, 99.163.10
By about 1840, more passengers and cargo had come through the port of New York than all other major harbors in the country combined, and by 1900 it was one of the great international ports. Though the harbor is famously occupied by the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, neither of those particular landmarks is seen in Dorothy Norman's photograph. Instead, the image is a brief glimpse of the harbor that highlights the shipping industry.
Alvin Langdon Coburn (American, 1882-1966)
New York Waterfront, 1908
Halftone from a gum platinotype
Gift of Baroness Jeane von Oppenheim, 98.135
Ernest Lawson (American, 1873-1939)
Hoboken Water Front, about 1930
Oil on canvas
Gift of R. H. Norton, 46.12
Ernest Lawson remained committed to landscape painting throughout his life. Making regular excursions from his home in New York to the Hudson and Harlem Rivers and to Hoboken in New Jersey, Lawson's riverscapes often represent the collision between rural and urban America. In Hoboken Waterfront, he depicted the forces that connect the once distinct and separate worlds. The busy tugboats, the hulking ship and the distant factory smokestacks all contribute to the industrialization of the natural world.
Andreas Feininger (American, born France, 1906-1999)
Midtown Manhattan from Weehawken, New Jersey, 1942
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Wysse Feininger in memory of her husband Andreas, 2000.56
John Marin (American, 1870-1953)
Docks at Weehawken, opposite New York, 1916
Watercolor on paper
Gift of Elsie and Marvin Dekelboum, 2005.49
John Marin was celebrated during his lifetime as one of America's most important artists. By 1911, one critic had called him "the most brilliant of our younger water-colorists." Docks at Weehawken is part of his "Weehawken Sequence" -- a series that was painted on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River. Some paintings from the series, such as this one, look across to Manhattan while others depict the nearby warehouses and woodlands.
Reginald Marsh (American 1898-1954)
City Harbor, 1939
Watercolor on paper
Bequest of Felicia Meyer Marsh, 79.10
Andreas Feininger (American, born France, 1906-1999)
Brooklyn Bridge, 1940s
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Wysse Feininger in memory of her husband Andreas, 2000.53
The Brooklyn Bridge connects the New York City boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn. Upon completion in 1883, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world, the first steel-wire suspension bridge and the first bridge to connect to Long Island. Shortly after immigrating to New York in 1939, Andreas Feininger became a staff photographer for Life Magazine, where he worked for 20 years. The 346 picture stories he published there helped to define him as one of the premier photojournalists of the 20th century.
George Bellows (American, 1882-1925)
Splinter Beach, 1916
Lithograph on paper
Gift of Mr. W. J. Enright, 55.4
George Bellows was associated with the Ashcan School, a group of American painters committed to conveying the character of the new urban American experience through a nuanced realism. For Splinter Beach, one of his earliest lithographs, Bellows created a complex image presenting a rare moment of leisure in the lives of New York City's working class. In various states of undress, they prepare for a swim on a stretch of the Hudson River that was surely not meant for that purpose. Bellows juxtaposes this teeming and timeless figurative spectacle against the contemporary engine of burgeoning commerce as seen by a boat forging through choppy waters. In the distance the new metropolis beckons: specifically the engineering wonder of the Brooklyn Bridge and the new skyscrapers surrounding it.
Childe Hassam (American, 1859-1935)
A New York Blizzard, 1889
Oil on cigar box top
Gift of Elsie and Marvin Dekelboum, 2005.45
After three years of studying and working in Paris, Childe Hassam moved to New York in October 1889. From his home and studio at 95 Fifth Avenue, Hassam applied the lessons of French Impressionism that he had learned in Paris to the bustling street life just outside his window in midtown Manhattan. Drawn to the hansom cabs that awaited passengers at Madison Square, Hassam became well known for his almost scientific documentation of New York's carriage drivers. During the winter of 1889-1890, he painted them repeatedly -- as they waited in the cold, as they drove over snowy streets, and in New York Blizzard, as they raced through inclement weather.
George Bellows (American, 1882-1925)
Winter Afternoon (Riverside Park, New York City), 1909
Oil on canvas
Gift of R. H. Norton, 49.1
George Bellows was greatly attracted to depicting snow and wrote in 1913, "I must always paint the snow at least once a year." He felt challenged by portraying the colors of snow -- the reflected greens, blues and reds enabled him to experiment with his palette. In Winter Afternoon, he painted the expressive potential of drifted snow, huddled figures, a frozen river and a bleak winter sky, but he also examined the tenuously negotiated border between urban and rural America. Painting in Riverside Park on the west side of Manhattan, Bellows gazed across the Hudson River to the then almost bucolic palisades of New Jersey. At the time he painted this work, Riverside Park was being developed for the Hudson-Fulton Celebration Parade and spectacular Naval displays. Thousands were expected to attend these celebrations marking the 300th anniversary of Henry Hudson's discovery of the Delaware Bay and Hudson River.
George Luks (American, 1866-1933)
The Cabby, not dated
Oil on paper
Bequest of R. H. Norton, 53.113
Jerome Myers (American, 1867-1940)
Concert in Central Park, New York, 1919
Oil on canvas
Gift of Elsie and Marvin Dekelboum, 2005.61
Jerome Myers was born in rural Virginia just two years after the end of the Civil War. The hardship he faced as an orphan of the South during Reconstruction informed his sympathetic portrayal of New York City's working class. Although sensitive to the plight of the immigrant poor, Myers was never a social crusader and rarely depicted the squalor of urban decay. He admired the resolve and the character of the poor, and favored scenes of social interaction and moments of relative ease. For Concert in Central Park, Myers captured a more prosperous leisure class than he typically portrayed. The well-dressed little girls in the foreground, the many fashionable hats and the open parasols suggest that for this painting, Myers migrated north from his usual haunt at Seward Park to the south end of Central Park where the cast iron bandstand once stood just below East 72nd Street.
Diane Arbus (American, 1923-1971)
Boy with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park, New York City, 1963
Gelatin silver print (printed in reverse)
Gift of Mr. John Raimondi, 88.18
Born to a wealthy Jewish family in Manhattan, Diane Arbus began producing advertising photographs for Russek's, her father's Fifth Avenue department store, together with her husband in the late 1940s. Once she began studying with Richard Avedon and Lisette Model at the New School in New York in 1957, she began shooting "from the gut" and quickly discovered the subject matter with which she has become synonymous: individuals who failed to fit neatly into acceptable social strata. This boy's face could be described as maniacal. However, Arbus captured his expression by having the boy stand there while she kept moving around him, claiming she tried to find the right angle. After a while, the boy became impatient with her and told her to "take the picture already!" creating the expression that seems to convey that the boy has violence in mind, while gripping the grenade tightly in his hand.
F. Usher DeVoll (American, 1873-1941)
Springtime in Washington Square, after 1927
Oil on canvas
Gift of Chaplain Joshua L. Goldberg, USN, ret. in honor of his birthday, 84.5
Washington Square Park is a Greenwich Village landmark. In 1889 to celebrate the centennial of George Washington's inauguration as president of the United States, a large plaster and wood Memorial Arch was erected over Fifth Avenue just north of the park. The popularity of this arch was so great that in 1892 a permanent marble arch was designed by New York architect Stanford White and erected in the park. While DeVoll made Rhode Island his home, he is best known for his paintings of New York City's streets and harbors. He traveled frequently to the city, walking along its streets and riding the Staten Island Ferry to capture it from the perspective of its every day inhabitants.
José de Creeft (American, born Spain, 1884-1982)
Alice (Head of Alice in Wonderland), about 1960
Gift of George T. Delacorte, 83.17
To honor his wife Margarita, philanthropist George T. Delacorte commissioned a sculpture from José de Creeft in 1959. Considered one of Central Park's most beloved sculptures, it is a depiction in bronze of a group of characters from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. While the figure of the Mad Hatter is rumored to be a caricature of George Delacorte himself, the face of Alice resembles the sculptor's daughter, Donna. De Creeft was a major contributor to the development of modernist sculptural techniques; his bust of Valerie Delacorte, George Delacorte's second wife, can be seen on the third floor of the Nessel Wing.
Bulgari (Fernando Toxidor, design; Andrea Spadini, sculptor; Raoul de Vecchio, casting and gilding; Rouge & Cie., movement and music)
A Musical Clock, based on the Central Park Musical Carrousel Clock (dedicated 1965)
Gilt bronze, lapis lazuli, and semi-precious stones
Gift of Valerie Delacorte in memory of George T. Delacorte, Publisher and Philanthropist, R2006.5
This is a "table-top" version of the famous Delacorte Clock situated above the arcade between the Wildlife Center and the Children's Zoo in Central Park; it was commissioned by George T. Delacorte as a gift to his wife, Valerie. The animals on the two clocks as well as their movements and actions are identical, but while the musical repertoire of the monumental clock comprises children's songs such as "Mary Had a Little Lamb," the music-box clock -- still in perfect working order -- plays "On the Street Where You Live." This is, perhaps, the signature melody from Lerner and Loewe's musical My Fair Lady, which had its debut on Broadway in early 1956 and made Julie Andrews a star in the role of Eliza Doolittle. It ran for an unprecedented 2,717 performances.
Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao (Taiwanese, born 1977)
Grand Concourse, 2008
Pigment ink print, ed. 2/12
Purchase, with funds generously provided by J. Ira and Nicki Harris, 2009.??
In 2008 the Bronx Museum of the Arts commissioned Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao to wander throughout the streets, parks and alleys surrounding the Grand Concourse to create a photographic portrait of the Bronx as it is today, resulting in a series of 12 monumental images showing the borough as vital, teeming and ever changing. The commission also commemorates the centennial of the Grand Concourse. Conceived in 1890 as a way of connecting Manhattan to the northern Bronx, the Grand Concourse was designed by Louis Aloys Risse, an Alsatian-born engineer, and opened in November 1909.
Childe Hassam (American, 1859-1935)
Melting Snow, 1905
Oil on canvas
Gift of Elsie and Marvin Dekelboum, 2005.63
New York is the most beautiful city in the world. There is no boulevard in all Paris that compares to our own Fifth Avenue. - Childe Hassam, 1913
Although Childe Hassam was a native of Boston and traveled frequently to Paris, it was New York that truly captured his imagination. For him, New York was a moment in time as well as a place, and that moment had been the 1890s, the decade in which he had come to know and love the city. By the time that Hassam painted Melting Snow in 1905 New York was changing dramatically. Motorbuses were replacing horse-drawn trolleys on Fifth Avenue, subway lines and elevated trains rumbled below ground and overhead, and Hassam's beloved handsome cabs were quickly disappearing from the city's streets. But in Melting Snow, New York's Fifth Avenue remained much as it had once been. A graceful woman pauses to look into a shop window, horse-drawn cabs trundle up and down the snowy street, and despite the cold, Hassam is down at street level recording it all.
James VanDerZee (American, 1886-1983)
The Guarantee Photo Studio, "One of my First Photo Studios", 1915
Gelatin silver print
Purchase, U. S. Trust Foundation Fund for Photography, 99.83
James VanDerZee opened his photography studio, called the Guarantee Photo Studio, on 125th Street in New York City's Harlem neighborhood. From the time he opened his first commercial studio to the 1950s, he produced hundreds of photographs recording Harlem's growing middle class. He knew the neighborhood and its inhabitants and shared their dreams and aspirations for self-determination and racial pride. His images documented the Harlem Renaissance as it was created and sustained by a healthy, talented, prosperous and productive community.
John Grabach (American, 1886-1981)
Sidewalks of New York, about 1920s
Oil on canvas
Bequest of R. H. Norton, 53.71
In the 1920s John Grabach painted a number of urban scenes that were distinctly American in subject matter and modern in approach with buildings, figures and train tracks creating an almost decorative pattern of shapes. He found inspiration in the spirit of the people "living and doing, going about their affairs" on the exciting streets of New York City. Sidewalks of New York teems with life and activity, transforming the lower east side into a swirling tapestry of line and color. The painting's urban subject matter places it in line with a tradition begun over a decade earlier by the Ashcan School-a group of artists known for their unflinching depictions of life in New York.
Augusta Savage (American, 1892-1962)
Gamin, about 1929
Painted plaster cast
Purchase, R.H. Norton Trust, 2004.26
Augusta Savage's Gamin (French for street urchin) is an icon of the Harlem Renaissance. It eloquently captures the mix of pride, inquisitiveness and self-sufficiency that characterized many youths struggling for survival on the streets of New York in the 1920s and 1930s. Savage spent most of her professional career in New York, where she was a prominent figure in the cultural revolution known as the Harlem Renaissance. She opened the Savage School of Arts and Crafts in 1932, went on to serve as Director of the Harlem Community Arts Center in the following years and was a tireless advocate for artists during the Works Progress Administration.
John Marin (American, 1870-1953)
New York City Abstraction with Figures, 1934
Oil on canvas board
Gift of Elsie and Marvin Dekelboum, 2005.54
New York's impressive modern architecture had fascinated John Marin since his childhood days spent gazing across the Hudson River from Weehawken, New Jersey. Years later, Marin first gained prominence in America for his prints, drawings and paintings that documented the rise of Manhattan's new Woolworth Building in 1913. He viewed the city in abstract terms, seeing it more as a formal arrangement or an oversized assemblage. In the early 1930s, Marin began a series of paintings that not only recorded the city from a less removed vantage point than was typical of the artist, but from within the very heart of the bustle. These works, like New York City Abstraction with Figures, launched a new interest in the human figure situated in the cityscape.
Guy Wiggins (American, 1883-1962)
New York Snow Scene, 1942
Oil on fiberboard
Gift of Jane Peterson, 42.110
Edward Hopper (American, 1882-1967)
August in the City, 1945
Oil on canvas
Bequest of R. H. Norton, 53.84
August in the City is, simply put, the personification of beautiful solitude. It is a scene without people, yet makes you feel like you are watching a narrative unfold. Traditionally during the month of August, many New Yorkers abandon the city for vacation destinations, and this painting of an apartment across the street from Riverside Park and its lonely sculpture in the window may speak to nothing more than the relative emptiness of the city in the late summer. But, 1945 also marked the end of World War II and the return of countless American soldiers. Anxious women poised before windows, awaiting husbands, sons and brothers was not an unfamiliar site in New York or anywhere in the US.
Mark Tobey (American, 1890-1976)
The Avenue, 1954
Tempera on fiberboard
Purchased through the R. H. Norton Fund, 59.16
Mark Tobey sought to paint "the frenetic rhythms of the modern city, the interweaving of lights and the streams of people who are entangled in the meshes of this net." He accomplishes this in The Avenue through the constantly moving line that creates animation, vitality and rhythm. The painting is part of a larger series called the "White Writing" paintings -- where Tobey drew light or white lines against a darker background, loosely depicting and celebrating the liveliness and bright white lights of Broadway.
Rube Goldberg (American, 1883-1970)
The Commuter, not dated
Gift of Dale and Doug Anderson, 96.13
Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Wall Street, New York, 1915, printed 1976-77
Platinum palladium print, ed. 75/100
Gift of Michael Hoffman in honor of Annette and Jack Friedland for their generous support and commitment to the highest level of photography and photographers, 92.8
Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1992)
Statuary Shop, Water Street, New York City, 1930
Gelatin silver print
Purchase, R. H. Norton Trust, 2004.7
Berenice Abbott moved to Paris in 1921, planning to become a sculptor. Instead, she worked as a photographic assistant to Man Ray and by 1925 set up her own portrait studio. She greatly admired the work of Eugène Atget, who used an encyclopedic approach to document Old Paris and its environs. When Abbott returned to New York in 1929, she embarked upon a similar project photographing the rapidly changing face of New York City in a systematic, precise and detailed fashion. Attentive to both the smallest details and the largest architectural configurations, she found an inexhaustible subject in the urban landscape. Some of Abbott's most memorable images portray individual storefronts, as in this photograph of a shop for religious statuary in lower Manhattan, which conveys a slightly surreal mood.
Bill Witt (American, born 1921)
The Greeting at $2.00 Shoes, Lower East Side, New York City, 1947
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Gary W. Witt, 2002.173
Weegee (Arthur Fellig), (American, born Poland, 1899-1968)
Arrested for Vagrancy, 1940
Gelatin silver print
Gift of The Carol and Raymond Merritt Collection, 2005.71
As legend would have it, Arthur Fellig's nickname is a phonetic rendering of Ouija as his apparent sixth sense for crime often led him to a crime scene well ahead of the police. Observers likened this sense, actually derived from tuning his radio to the police frequency, to the Ouija board, the popular fortune-telling game. Though not an image of a particularly dramatic crime, Arrested for Vagrancy is a humorous nod to the broad vagrancy laws of New York City that were in place until the 1960s; here, a police officer has apprehended a homeless dog.
Andreas Feininger (American, born France, 1906-1999)
Elevated Trestle, Division Street, 1941, printed 1987
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Raymond W. Merritt, The Raymond & Carol Merritt Collection, 2003.92
New York City's first regular elevated railway service began on February 14, 1870; the El originally ran along Greenwich Street and Ninth Avenue in Manhattan. Feininger shot this photograph at the intersection of the Second and Third Avenue Els at Division Street and the Bowery. The image highlights the spider web shadows of the expansive intersection from the train tracks overhead. A year after this photograph was taken the Second Avenue El was dismantled, followed by the Third Avenue El in 1955.
Andreas Feininger (American, born France, 1906-1999)
Fifth Avenue During Lunch Hour, 1949
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Wysse Feininger in memory of her husband Andreas, 2000.66
Jacob Lawrence (American, 1917-2000)
Schomburg Library, 1987
Silkscreen on paper, ed. 22/200
Gift of C. Gerald Goldsmith, 94.26
The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is a national research library devoted to collecting, preserving and providing access to resources documenting the experiences of peoples of African descent throughout the world. The Center's collections first won international acclaim in 1926 when the personal collection of the distinguished Puerto Rican-born Black scholar and bibliophile, Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, was added to the Division of Negro Literature, History and Prints at the 135th Street Branch of The New York Public Library. Schomburg served as curator of the library from 1932 until his death in 1938. Renamed in his honor in 1940, the collection grew steadily through the years. Today, the Schomburg Center contains over 5,000,000 items including art objects, audio and video recordings, books, newspapers, periodicals and photographs. This print by Jacob Lawrence was commissioned by the Center to commemorate both its 60th anniversary and the legacy of its founder.
Jerome Liebling (American, born 1924)
Boys Playing at Abandoned Building, New York City, from the portfolio "Selected Images" published 2000
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Dr. George A Hyman and Family, 2001.57
Bill Witt (American, born 1921)
The Eye, Lower East Side, New York, 1948, printed about 1978
Gelatin silver print, ed. 5/25
Gift of Gary W. Witt, 2002.171
Founded in New York in 1936, the Photo League was a volunteer membership organization of professional and amateur photographers that ran a school, organized exhibitions, published a monthly bulletin and sponsored lectures. Members believed that photographers had an obligation to produce social documentary work that reflected the communities in which they lived. Bill Witt remained an active member of the League from 1940 until its demise in 1951, exhibiting his work and teaching master classes in technique. This is one of Witt's best-known images: an angled view of an opticians' storefront, complete with several depictions of eyes and glasses that convey the sights and the sounds of the Lower East Side in the late 1940s.
Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao (Taiwanese, born 1977)
42nd Street Times Square, Manhattan, from the series "Habitat 7," 2005
Pigment ink print, ed. 2/6
Purchase, with funds generously provided by J. Ira and Nicki Harris, 2007.10
Everett Shinn (American, 1876-1953)
Concert Stage, 1905
Oil on canvas
Bequest of R. H. Norton, 53.176
Everett Shinn painted New York City's life on the streets and in the theater and music hall. He viewed the city, what went on inside as well as what went on outside, as a bright, glittering spectacle. Shortly after the purchase of this painting in 1940 Shinn wrote to Ralph Norton stating: "The picture you have is one of our Vaudeville theatres in those days of smothering skirts. She has no particular identity."
James VanDerZee (American, 1886-1983)
Sara Spencer Washington, Bueatision [sic], apex hair products, 1926
Gelatin silver print
Purchase, U. S. Trust Foundation Fund for Photography, 99.82
Throughout his career James VanDerZee photographed countless African American celebrities and successful middle-class families. He took great care in staging his portraits, using ornate furniture, props and painted backdrops (many of his own design) and posing each sitter "...in such a way that the picture would tell a story." The details of Sara Spencer Washington's dress, the illusionistic backdrop, tiled floor and patterned tablecloth create an abundance of textures and tones. Her gaze seems dreamy, an effect enhanced by the softly focused edges of the image. At the time of her death in 1953, Washington was worth more than a million dollars. She employed 500 people and claimed that 45,000 people worldwide were agents for her Apex Hair Company of Atlantic City, New Jersey founded in 1920. Eventually, Washington expanded her company to include beauty shops, beauty products and schools (with more than 25,000 graduates) from New York to Virginia.
Reginald Marsh (American 1898-1954)
Golden Horseshoe, 1940
Watercolor on paper
Bequest of R. H. Norton, 53.122
Reginald Marsh was the greatest urban realist of the 1930s and 1940s. More a reporter than a social crusader, he celebrated the vitality and exuberance of city life, especially the pursuit of pleasure. Golden Horseshoe depicts the audience in the grand tier, or Golden Horseshoe section, of New York's Metropolitan Opera -- seating that commanded the highest priced tickets.
William Gropper (American, 1897-1977)
Art Opening, about 1959
Oil on canvas
Gift of Mr. Paul M. Kaminsky, 78.8
William Gropper is best known for his satirical depictions of the powerful and influential, and the effects of war and capitalism on American life. In Art Opening, he portrayed a brightly colored gathering of fashionable people, none of them actually looking at the artworks on the wall. Such a commentary on the art world suggests that the artist, given his background and sympathies towards the working class, rebelled against the formal theories of art.
Larry Fink (American, born 1941)
Silk Legs, Regines, NYC, from the portfolio "Social Context," May 1977
Gelatin silver print, ed. 5/25
Gift of Raymond W. Merritt, The Carol & Raymond Merritt Collection, 2003.97
Larry Fink (American, born 1941)
Trixies, NYC-Woman Dancing for Small Crowd, from the portfolio "Social Context," May 1990
Gelatin silver print, ed. 5/25
Gift of Raymond W. Merritt, The Carol & Raymond Merritt Collection, 2003.96
Andreas Feininger (American, born France, 1906-1999)
Times Square, 1937, New York, 1937
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Raymond and Carol Merritt, 2003.18
Dave Heath (American, born 1931)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, 1958
Gelatin silver print mounted on cardstock
Gift of Steven and Phyllis Gross, 2008.117
Colin Campbell Cooper (American, 1856-1937)
Columbus Circle, New York, about 1923
Oil on canvas
Gift of Elsie and Marvin Dekelboum, 2005.57
Colin Campbell Cooper was a fashionable and successful artist during the first decades of the 20th century. He painted views of India, the capitals of Europe, the California coast and the resorts of New England. But no location was more appealing to Cooper and more attractive to his collectors than the streets and squares of New York. His cityscapes featured popular tourist spots and prominent landmarks or areas of the city that were coming into vogue. Columbus Circle qualified on both counts. The column in the center of the circle, surmounted by a marble sculpture of Christopher Columbus, was erected in 1892 and was the first of many public monuments to be installed in or near the south end of Central Park. Columbus Circle was also the gateway to New York's upper west side, which only recently had become an attractive neighborhood to the city's elite.
John Marin (American, 1870-1953)
Looking Up Fifth Avenue from 30th Street, 1932
Oil on canvas
Purchased through R. H. Norton Fund, 56.3
I try to express graphically what a great city is doing. Within the frames there must be a balance, a controlling of these warring, pushing, pulling forces.
- John Marin, 1913
In 1936, Marin exhibited Looking Up Fifth Avenue from 30th Street and other frenzied urban scenes at a Museum of Modern Art retrospective of his work. His muted gray palette, slashing brushwork and the chaotic, overlapping forms that characterized his painted views of a bustling Manhattan were praised for their distinctive handling and fidelity to city life.
Stuart Davis (American, 1894-1964)
New York Mural, 1932
Oil on canvas
Purchased through the R. H. Norton Fund, 64.17
New York Mural represents aspects of New York life and politics in the 1920s and 1930s. The large, central image in the painting depicts the Empire State Building, an engineering marvel that stood, at that time, as the tallest building in the world. Behind the Empire State Building is a white sail, indicating New York's role as a major port. The rope on the sail leads to a tipping glass that spills liquid next to a half moon. Many ships would smuggle "moonshine" into New York during this era of Prohibition. One politician opposed to Prohibition was Al Smith, the governor of New York throughout most of the 1920s. The brown derby was Smith's trademark; at the bottom of the painting another derby perches on a banana, recalling a song "Yes, We Have No Bananas" used by Smith's unsuccessful presidential campaign in 1928. Smith's presidential candidacy was supported by the vice president of General Motors, a political connection that Davis communicated by painting a tire next to the derby. Stuart Davis, an American Modernist, painted New York Mural for an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in an attempt to win a commission for the new Rockefeller Center. Although this effort failed, his mural was praised and he was commissioned to paint a mural for Radio City Music Hall.
Lawrence Gipe (American, born 1962)
Panel No. 4 from Century of Progress Museum from Futurama (for Robert Moses), 1992
Oil on panel
Purchase, the R. H. Norton Trust, 94.16
Lawrence Gipe challenges the ideological foundations that have shaped the industrial and social revolutions of the early 20th century-specifically humankind's abuse of the earth and neglect of humanity in the name of progress. His theme here is the development of New York City in the 1930s. In particular, this painting addresses the work of town planner Robert Moses. From the 1930s through the 1950s, Moses spearheaded the destruction of many communities in New York to make way for freeway networks and bridges. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced as a result of what was heralded in Moses' words, as "the most significant...panorama that modern civilization offers!"
Edward Steichen (American, born Luxembourg, 1879-1973)
Untitled (New York), not dated
Gift of Raymond W. Merritt, 99.365
Paul B. Haviland (American, 1880-1915)
New York at Night, about 1909
Photogravure on Japan tissue
Gift of Baroness Jeane von Oppenheim, 98.236
Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Untitled (New York), not dated
Gift of Raymond W. Merritt, 99.366
John Marin (American, 1870-1953)
St. Paul's, New York, 1930
Etching on paper
Gift of John Marin, 53.353
As Manhattan's oldest public building in continuous use, St. Paul's Chapel is a landmark of New York City. Famous for its role in the birth of the nation, the Chapel hosted George Washington on his Inauguration Day of April 30, 1789. Lying opposite the east side of the World Trade Center site, St. Paul's served as a major support center for victims and recovery workers following the attack of September 11, 2001. Though John Marin is best known as a watercolorist, he was trained as an architect and held a life-long interest in historical buildings.
John Taylor Arms (American, 1887-1953)
42nd Street at Night, about 1925
Etching and aquatint on paper
Purchase, R. H. Norton Trust, 76.20
Walter Tittle (American, 1883-1956)
St. Bartholomew's, not dated
Drypoint on paper
Gift of M. Knoedler & Co., 53.386
Armin Landeck (American, 1905-1984)
Manhattan Canyon, 1934
Etching on paper
Gift of David J. Patten, 99.344
Eugene Feldman (American, born 1921)
New York West Side Skyline, 1965
Lithograph on paper
Gift of Henry G. Gardiner, 99.142
George Tice (American, born 1938)
From the Chrysler Building, 1978, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Baroness Jeane von Oppenheim, 98.581
The Chrysler Building is an outstanding example of Art Deco architecture and is located on the east side of Manhattan. Noted for its distinctive ornamentation based on features of Chrysler automobiles, the skyscraper is particularly famous for the gargoyles, modeled after hood ornaments. George Tice is a well-known photographer famous for the images of his native New Jersey. In this photograph, however, Tice has captured a view of New York City from the perspective of the iconic gargoyles.
Wolf von dem Bussche (American, born Germany, 1934)
Washington Square with Trade Center Towers IV, from "New York, New York," portfolio #53, 1976, printed 1982
Black and white photograph
Gift of Timothy and Mary Anna Eaton, 97.34
Ralph Gibson (American, born 1939)
Architectural Detail, New York, from the portfolio "Artifacts," 1980
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Raymond W. Merritt, The Carol & Raymond Merritt Collection, 2003.114
Jim Macmillan (American, born 1961)
First Light, 09/12/01, from "Attack on New York" series, 2001
Purchase, the R. H. Norton Trust, 2002.45
Jim Macmillan is a Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist, most recently affiliated with the Philadelphia Daily News and the Associated Press. First Light, 09/12/01 is one of the more striking images Macmillan recorded of the aftermath from the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The enormity of destruction is emphasized by the presence of the lone firefighter in the foreground, the small figure almost lost among the debris. Light, a powerful symbol of hope and life, is just barely visible through the smoke and detritus, creating a powerful image that reflects the emotions of that time.
Richard Haas (American, born 1936)
Ansonia, 1972
Drypoint etching on paper, ed. 22/60
Gift of Christina Orr-Cahall and Richard Cahall, 2009.11
Originally a residential hotel, the Ansonia is now a condominium apartment building. Located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, it was built between 1899 and 1904 in the Beaux-Arts style and was the first residential hotel in the city to have air conditioning. Like the Dakota, the Ansonia is one of the more famous residential buildings in the city and has hosted well-known figures, including Babe Ruth, Arturo Toscanini, and more recently, Angelina Jolie. With a focus on urban architecture, Wisconsin native Richard Haas creates prints and murals that celebrate and emphasize the varied architectural styles that can be found within a city.


(above: Edward Hopper (American, 1882-1967) August in the City, 1945. Oil on canvas. Bequest of R. H. Norton, 53.84)


(above: Childe Hassam (American, 1859-1935) Melting Snow, 1905. Oil on canvas. Gift of Elsie and Marvin Dekelboum, 2005.63) 


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