Published: April 10, 2001
NEW YORK CITY – From May 24 to July 6, Berry-Hill Galleries will present the first exhibition devoted to lower Manhattan’s historic Washington Square. “Homage to the Square: Picturing Washington Square, 1890-1965,” consists of approximately 90 works, illustrating the transformation of the neighborhood from one that catered almost exclusively to affluent New Yorkers to one which became famous as a Bohemian artists’ enclave.
Among the artists highlighted are William Glackens, Everett Shinn, John Sloan, Guy Pene du Bois, Edward Hopper, Oscar Bluemner, Jessie Tarbox Beals, Berenice Abbott, Weegee, Andre Kertesz and Diane Arbus. Many of the works are on loan from museums and private collectors.
“A Winter Wedding-Washington Square,” 1897, by Fernand Lungren (1859-1932), was painted while he lived at 3 Washington Square North. This radiantly colored work represents a neighborhood society wedding reminiscent of Henry James’s literary portrait of New York’s elite.
A photograph by Jessie Tarbox Beals (1871-1942), the first female news photographer, entitled “Washington Square North,” presents an alternative view to that of Lungren’s – an early morning commute of a young worker on his way to one of the nearby garment factories. She illustrates a tender and haunting image that brings to mind the tragic Triangle fire of 1911.
Like Beals, Everett Shinn (1876-1953), at one time also a news reporter, cloaked his images of the Square in atmospheric mists of hazy tonalities. Shinn pictured Washington Square more than 20 times between 1899 and 1951. In his 1929 “The Arch, Washington Square,” New Yorkers appear in a whirl of motion and frenetic activity, struggling to cross the street against wind-driven rain. A horse-drawn coach has just made its way under the arch – a reminder, for Shinn, of an older, more elegant New York.
Drawn to the Square by Shinn, fellow Ashcan artist William Glackens (1870-1938), who had a studio at 50 Washington Square South, was among the first to depict the view from the south side of the park. Glackens is represented by ten oil paintings, one of which, “The Green Car,” lent by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, features the streetcar that ran along the south and west sides of the Square.
Photographer Andre Kertesz (1894-1985) had a 12th floor apartment at 2 Fifth Avenue, which was erected in 1952 after the historic Rhinelander mansion was demolished. Like Glackens before him, Kertesz pictured the Square from his window, and took advantage of his spectacular view to transform the Square into patterns of form and sinuous line.
Edward Hopper (1882-1967) lived at 3 Washington Square North from December 1913 until his death in May 1965, and painted the area several times with his signature mood of solitude and silence, giving yet another interpretation of the area. In “November, Washington Square,” from the Santa Barbara Museum, Hopper shows us a quiet, retrospective version of the usually bustling Washington Square.
In 1946, the regionalist Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975) painted “The Artist’s Show, Washington Square, New York,” on loan from the Herbert F. Johnson Museum, Cornell University, illustrating the Washington Square Outdoor Art Show, a semi-annual event that continue today.
“Circles of Washington Square,” a little-known masterpiece of unusually large size by Oscar Bluemner (1867-1938), represents the first skyscraper to dominate the Square, No. 1 Fifth Avenue.
Like many of the skyscrapers that followed, the erection of No. 1 Fifth Avenue in 1927 was both praised and condemned, and Bluemner transforms it into something fantastic and surreal.
A fully illustrated catalogue written by Bruce Weber is available. Berry-Hill is open Monday to Friday, 9:30 am to 5:30 pm, and is at 11 East 70th Street. Telephone, 212-744-2300.
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