“Scenes of New York City” offers a glimpse into how artists have depicted the urban landscape over the years
When an artist looks at New York City, what do they see? A new collection gifted to the New-York Historical Society provides a glimmer of an answer by way of David Hockney, Jacob Lawrence, Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe, Andy Warhol, Marc Chagall, Isabel Bishop and more.
Culled under the title “Scenes of New York City,” the works come as a donation from art collectors Elie and Sarah Hirschfeld. As revealed by the museum Tuesday, the collection comprises 130 pieces dating back to the mid-19th century. Threaded together by a shared focus on New York City’s buildings, parks, bridges, landmarks and people, the artworks will be presented in a major exhibition planned for fall 2021.
Of the selected pieces, 113 of the paintings, works on paper and sculptures were created by 82 artists — including 20th-century greats Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Stuart Davis and Reginald Marsh — not currently represented in the New-York Historical Society’s holdings.
“Elie and Sarah Hirschfeld’s ‘Scenes of New York City’ collection is truly transformative for the New-York Historical Society, adding works by many major artists of the 20th century who will be represented in our collection for the first time,” Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society, said. “These illustrative works of art will allow us to provide a more comprehensive understanding to our visitors of how New York City has flourished and changed over the last century.”
Among the highlights included in the trove of works is O’Keeffe’s spiraling study of Brooklyn Bridge, created with charcoal and black chalk on paper in 1949, just before she moved to New Mexico. Cast in warm, honied tones, the museum states that the “drawing’s sweeping cables create a valentine to New York, a place where she and legendary photographer Alfred Stieglitz launched their seminal careers.”
A starker entry into the catalog, Robert Henri’s “Snow in Central Park” captures a vast coldness, evoked by murky shadows cast over a sparse expanse of ground populated by a few bare trees. Created with wide strokes of oil on canvas, the painting fits within the Ashcan School aesthetic, which the museum notes “focused on gritty and unidealized views of city life in New York that helped to usher in a vital American modernity.”
David Hockney’s colorful rendition of the Manhattan skyline, as seen from his room in the Mayflower Hotel, captures the window-framed view that so many of us have of the city as we shelter-in-place. A much brighter vision of Central Park than Henri’s, the work was completed by the artist with watercolor and crayon in 2002, two years before the Mayflower Hotel shuttered its doors.
See works from “Scenes of New York City” below.
Top Image: Portion of Jacob Lawrence's "Harlem Diner." © 2020 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.