Scenes of New York City

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Raoul Dufy The Brooklyn Bridge (Le Pont de Brooklyn), 1950 Detail of cat. 26


rt is the highest form of hope,” wrote artist Gerhard Richter. With their promised gift of 130 works of art depicting New York City, Elie and Sarah Hirschfeld have bestowed on New Yorkers a magnificent donation of hope and beauty. The gift was announced in spring

2020, when New York City was the epicenter of a global pandemic and the New-York Historical Society, along with the City’s other cultural organizations, had been shuttered to slow transmission of COVID-19. The news of this remarkable collection heading to a public home lifted spirits during a truly challenging time. Its ongoing display at New-York Historical, and this handsome publication, ensure that the works of art will captivate and inspire art and history lovers for generations to come. Such visionary contributions have nurtured the New-York Historical Society Museum for more than two hundred years. Comprising more than eighty thousand objects documenting the history of New York, the Museum is, in fact, a collection of collections, with a handful of significant, fully intact assemblages its very core. Among the collections that continue to define the Museum are the Hudson River School landscapes and other American paintings collected by merchant and art patron Luman Reed; the European and American pictures assembled by collector Thomas Jefferson Bryan and merchant Robert L. Stuart; the seminal trove of American and European folk art gathered by modernist sculptor Elie Nadelman and his wife Viola; and the encyclopedic collection of Tiffany lamps amassed by Dr. Egon Neustadt during the 1970s and 1980s. Elie and Sarah Hirschfeld’s Scenes of New York City Collection builds on this tradition while extending the timeline of major acquisitions into the twenty-first century. The Hirschfeld Collection is at once a collection of individual works by talented artists, a series of vivid snapshots of our beloved city, and a tapestry weaving a narrative of Gotham’s vibrant history. Its strength lies decidedly in the twentieth century, whereas the Museum has long been known for its holdings of colonial portraiture, avian watercolors by John James Audubon, and Hudson River School landscapes. In addition to expanding representations of the modern era, the Hirschfeld gift fills major art historical gaps, adding 113 works by 82 artists not currently represented in the collection. More



Scenes of New York City

Overleaf: Mark Rothko Untitled (The Subway), 1937 Detail of cat. 73

Willem de Kooning Untitled (New York Times), ca. 1976 Detail of cat. 74

Not all sectors of the Big Apple economy, however, were as zesty as innovative art. The City did not do well in the late 1960s and 1970s, especially as corporations decided that increased taxes were no longer bearable and they abandoned their skyscrapers, as did apartment owners, for other states. In the fall of 1975, the municipality reached its economic nadir when massive budget increases, coupled with federal cutbacks, made it almost impossible to pay interest on its long-term loans. Two years later, an electric blackout triggered widespread rioting and looting. New York seemed ungovernable and unsustainable. Nonetheless, between 1966 and 1975, the seven-building World Trade Center was constructed, including the Twin Towers, then the tallest buildings in the world. Their tragic destruction in the terrorist attacks of 9/11 darkly confirmed that they symbolized successful capitalism worldwide. In the last quarter of the twentieth century, New York resurrected itself. By 1981, the City had balanced its budget and was paying off the last of its federal loans. Despite severe economic dips in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Gotham witnessed exuberant prosperity as the twenty-first century opened. The stock market broke records, tourism flourished, the City budget was showing a multibillion-dollar surplus, real estate values were soaring, and Broadway was reporting all-time-high box office receipts. Gotham’s commercial, entrepreneurial, and creative spirits were alive as the curtain opened on the second millennium. Perhaps nothing showed the City’s health—physical, emotional, and spiritual—more clearly than the number of people who wanted to live there. The 2000 census revealed a record number of people in Gotham, more than eight million. Nearly 1.2 million immigrants had arrived in the five boroughs in the 1990s, resulting in an almost ten percent population increase. Perhaps as significant were the number of places they came from. Every continent contributed, and at the turn into the twenty-first century nearly 180 languages were being spoken. New York City embodied globalization. Why had they all come? Not just to survive, but to realize, finally, their full potential. As novelist John Steinbeck once put it: “It is an ugly city, a dirty city. Its traffic is madness, its politics is used to frighten children. But there is one thing about it. Once you have lived in New York, and it has become your home, no other place is good enough.”

New York City as Revealed by the Hirschfeld Collection



Georgia O’Keeffe

| Sun Prairie, Wisconsin 1887 – Santa Fe, New Mexico 1986

Study for “Brooklyn Bridge”, 1949 Charcoal and black and white chalk on paper; 397⁄ 8 × 29½ in. (1,013 × 749 mm)

Nearly as large as her painting of the fabled bridge in the Brooklyn Museum (fig. 32), Georgia O’Keeffe’s powerful study for that oil is more dynamic and emotional.1 It has an eminent provenance from its original owner Doris Bry—O’Keeffe’s agent, confidante, and the noted scholar of Alfred Stieglitz, the artist’s husband.2 Bry acquired the large sheet directly from the artist in 1978, underlining that O’Keeffe valued it, keeping it with her for nearly three decades.3 That same year, O’Keeffe sold Bry another smaller, descriptive graphite sketch of one of the bridge’s towers with only a few cables delineated, which was likely O’Keeffe’s initial study.4 She may have consulted it when painting the oil, even though the painting, unlike the two drawings, lacks any detail of the masonry tower and its crenelations. Instead, the more static painting features one of the bridge’s towers as a dark, flat mass pierced by two arches resembling the lancet windows of a

Gothic cathedral.5 By contrast, in the large drawing the artist placed the viewer inside rather than outside the bridge’s dynamic heart, its arches seemingly illuminated in white chalk with the cables swinging freely. O’Keeffe repeated the other tower with its crenelations, as in her initial sketch, in a smaller scale—either in the perspectival distance or like a footnote in a transparent experience of the bridge with two views telescoped together. This juxtaposition creates a simultaneity that endows the sheet with a complex and mysterious power. The artist loved to draw in friable charcoal, as well as in graphite, admiring its softness, boldness, and its ability to create threedimensional forms by smudging.6 She drew a few other bridges— among them two graphite sketches of the Triborough Bridge in New York (1936),7 and an unidentified bridge (1901–02)8—but none have the immersive power of the Hirschfeld Collection sheet.

Fig. 32. Georgia O’Keeffe, Brooklyn Bridge, 1949. Oil on Masonite; 4715⁄16 × 35⅞ in. (121.8 × 91.1 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Bequest of Mary Childs Draper, 77.11


Georgia O'Keeffe


Washington Square Arch


Reginald Marsh

Manhattan Skyline with the Brooklyn Bridge

Marsh. During the 1940s, he not only became an important teacher at the Art Students League, but also drew illustrations for magazines

NOTES 1. The Hirschfelds acquired the trio in 1987 from, respectively, Christie’s, New York, March 20, 1987, lot 232; the William Doyle Galleries, New York, April 2, 1987; and the Sid Deutsch Gallery, New York, January 27, 1987. 2. For the N-YHS exhibition on the artist, see Haskell 2012. The N-YHS Library holds thirty proofs of etchings and engravings, made from the artist’s original copper plates for distribution by the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1969. 3. See Kathleen Spies, “‘Girls and Gags’: Sexual Display and Humor in Reginald Marsh’s Burlesque Images,” American Art 18:2 (2004): 32–57. 4. William Benton, “Reg Marsh— American Daumier,” Saturday Review, December 24, 1955, 9. The original quotation is: “Marsh has captured

in his paintings his New York—as Daumier captured his Paris and as Hogarth immortalized his London.” 5. See Higginbotham 2015. 6. For Marsh’s five studio addresses in the Union Square area, see Eleanor Wiley Todd, The “New Woman” Revised: Painting and Gender Politics on Fourteenth Street (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 94. 7. Many thanks to Miriam Berman, Carol A. Willis of Columbia University and the Skyscraper Museum, Andrew Alpern, and Kenneth Grant for their opinions about the location of Marsh’s watercolor. Barbara Haskell, e-mail message to the author, July 1, 2020, concurs that its location is evocative of Union Square, and thinks that stylistically the watercolor may date to the early 1930s.

like Esquire, Fortune, and Life (whose founder, Henry Luce, was a lifelong friend). RJMO

8. Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, inv. no. 1964.336; see J. Kirk T. Varnedoe and Thomas P. Lee, Gustave Caillebotte: A Retrospective Exhibition, exh. cat. (Houston, TX: Museum of Fine Arts, 1976), 110, ill. 9. The yellow public transportation vehicle is identified as a bus, based on the second set of “eyebrow” windows over the lower ones and the shape of the vehicle. It helps to date the watercolor because the New York Railroad Broadway Line trolley was discontinued on February 12, 1936, and replaced by the New York Omnibus Corporation. Daniel Brenner of the New York Transit Museum, e-mail messages to the author, June 30 and July 1, 2021, concurs and notes that the yellow vehicle looks like the Yellow Coach Model 718 or the 720 type and does

not resemble the trolleys with their different fenestration. Streetcar lines in Manhattan began to be replaced in 1935. 10. For further history and bibliography about the arch, which enjoyed a long gestation, and the park, which was laid out in 1826 on a former Indigenous American burial ground, adjacent cemetery, and potter’s field, see Olson 2008, 375–376, nos. 126a,b. For the square, see Bruce Weber, Homage to the Square: Picturing Washington Square, 1890–1965, exh. cat. (New York: Berry-Hill Galleries, 2001); Emily Kies Folpe, It Happened on Washington Square (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002). 11. Olson 2008, 375. 12. For the artist, see Reginald Marsh papers, 1897–1955, AAA; see also cat. 51 n. 2, 52 n. 3.

Reginald Marsh



Louise Nevelson

| Pereiaslav, Russian Empire [now Ukraine] 1899 – New York, New York 1988

America * New York, 1965 Painted wood on wooden plinth; 441 ⁄ 8 × 211 ⁄ 8 × 151 ⁄ 8 in. (112 × 53.7 × 38.4 cm) Incised with the artist’s signature: Louise Nevelson; dated at the top: 65 1

Louise Nevelson described New York as her “mirror.”2 She had fled the Russian Empire with her family as a child, settling first in Rockland, Maine, and then moving in 1920 to Manhattan. New York City was itself “a great twentieth-century work of art,” she proclaimed—and the place where she could find fulfillment.3 The wooden detritus of New York City streets captivated Nevelson. She collected scraps of wood from construction piles, as well as discarded furniture, broken crates, even baseball bats. Back in her studio, she collaged these together in a practice redolent of her childhood—when, by the age of six, she was already producing art out of fragments scavenged from her father’s lumberyard.4 Nevelson described her attraction to her materials and method: “When a car goes over a piece of wood, and it comes out with all sorts of things— dents, and things in it—those are my drawings. Well, what’s the use of drawing them when it’s much more direct doing it the way I do? It’s immediate, it’s true, and it’s there.”5 By the late 1950s, Nevelson had developed her signature wooden assemblages, which she unified by painting in monochromatic black, white, or gold. The sculptures sublimate the cast-offs of the City, forgoing the image of an affluent and consumerist New York to offer an intimate and cumulative portrayal of what it leaves behind. America * New York exemplifies Nevelson’s mature work.6 The dramatic all-black assemblage comprises a series of boxes, each made of found scraps of wood, that slot together into a free-standing, darkly dreamlike construction. The sculpture looks at once archaic

NOTES 1. According to Sotheby’s, London, June 29, 2017, lot 199. 2. TateShots, “Louise Nevelson—‘New York is My Mirror,’” September 16, 2016: artists/louise-nevelson-1696/louisenevelson-new-york-mirror/. 3. Ibid. 4. John Russell, “Louise Nevelson, Sculptor, is Dead at 88,” New York Times, April 19, 1988. 5. TateShots, “Louise Nevelson.” 6. Joachim Schickel et al., Fetisch-


Formen, exh. cat. (Leverkusen: Städtisches Museum Schloss Morsbroich, 1967), 27, ill. 7. Sotheby’s, London, June 29, 2017, lot 199. A photograph of the sculpture’s base showing the original gallery label is in the Hirschfeld Collection files. 8. Quoted in Brooke Kamin Rapaport, ed., The Sculpture of Louise Nevelson: Constructing a Legend, exh. cat., Jewish Museum (New York: Under the auspices of the

and modern, drawing equally from the visual languages of Cubism, Surrealism, and Constructivism as from African, Native American, and pre-Columbian art. Its modest scale belies its monumental presence. The blocky forms, angular silhouette, and minimal negative space project visual weight and solidity. Standing with almost totemic bearing, the work evokes an anthropomorphic skyscraper or futuristic human figure—a meditation, built upon the material language of New York, on the modern city and city life. Its title—in keeping with Nevelson’s preference for such poetic and mysterious appellations as Silent Music I and Sky Cathedral Presence—might equate the Empire State with the nation, or single it out as an exception. America * New York was sold through Pace Gallery, which began representing Nevelson in 1963 after the artist’s long climb to recognition in a male-dominated art world.7 A 1941 review of her work at the Nierendorf Gallery exemplified the sexism she faced as a woman sculptor: “We learned the artist is a woman, in time to check our enthusiasm. Had it been otherwise, we might have hailed the sculptural expressions as by surely a great figure among moderns.”8 Nevelson reached middle age before she sold a work to anyone other than a fellow artist. She was in her sixties when the Museum of Modern Art in New York invited her to exhibit in the groundbreaking group shows Sixteen Americans and The Art of Assemblage.9 And it was not until 1958, when she joined the Martha Jackson Gallery, that the artist was guaranteed an income and attained financial security.10 WNEI

Jewish Theological Seminary of America; New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007), 13. For modern American women artists, see Connie Butler and Alexandra Schwartz, eds., Modern Women: Women Artists at the Museum of Modern Art (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2010); Helen Langa and Paula Wisotzki, eds., American Women Artists, 1935–1970: Gender, Culture, and Politics (New York: Routledge, 2016).

9. Dorothy C. Miller, ed., Sixteen Americans, exh. cat. (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1959); William C. Seitz, The Art of Assemblage, exh. cat. (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1961). 10. For the artist, see Louise Nevelson: Dawns and Dusks, exh. cat. (New York: PaceWildenstein, 2009); Laurie Wilson, Louise Nevelson: Light and Shadow (New York and London: Thames and Hudson, 2016); Louise Nevelson papers, ca. 1903–1988, AAA.

Louise Nevelson



Andy Warhol

| Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 1930 – New York, New York 1987

Brooklyn Bridge, Trial Proof, 1983

Brooklyn Bridge, Trial Proof, 1983

Screen print on Lenox Museum Board; 39¼ × 39¼ in. (997 × 997 mm) Signed at lower left in graphite: Andy Warhol; inscribed at far left: TP 14/25

Screen print on Lenox Museum Board; 39¼ × 39¼ in. (997 × 997 mm) Signed at lower left in graphite: Andy Warhol ; inscribed at far left: TP 15/25

In 1983, the Brooklyn Bridge Centennial Commission charged the celebrity American artist Andy Warhol—the leading figure in the Pop Art movement—with creating an image in celebration of the one hundredth anniversary of the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge. If the bridge was an icon of the City, Warhol was an icon of New York art—world-famous, shocking, outrageously successful, and multitalented (not only as an artist but also as a film director, rock band impresario of the Velvet Underground, and founder-editor of Interview magazine). Warhol’s image of the bridge served as the official artwork for the citywide event, and the 1983 Centennial Commission, Inc. published a final edition of two hundred of Warhol’s screen prints.1 Elie Hirschfeld acquired both of these numbered trial proofs directly from the enigmatic and highly commercial Warhol,2 born Andrew Warhola and also known as the “Pope of Pop.”3 As their strong design reveals, Warhol built his art career on his success as a magazine, book, and advertising illustrator, whose works with headon or gridded images of Campbell’s soup cans, Coca-Cola bottles, and Marilyn Monroe’s face, among other fixtures of American commercial and celebrity culture, have become internationally recognized.4 The Brooklyn Bridge prints exemplify the artist’s signature photo-silkscreen technique, which he used with increasing ingenuity from the beginning of his career in 1962 to its premature end. Using his own photographs, those by others, and photo-reproductions from media, he transferred the pictures to screens, and exploited the gamut of printing possibilities, including blurring, flopping, and surprinting the screens, or printing them off-register for the appearance of an after-image or shadow. Spatial and temporal effects are playfully varied—are we looking north or south from Manhattan? Is it day or night? Yet the same tour boat steams under the arches

in all the printings, suggesting Warhol used only one photograph for all of his bridges. These duplications imply the span’s function as a connector between two geographic points. With this doppelganger effect, the viewer can also travel roundtrip conceptually. Moreover, Warhol recognized that the dialogue between architect John A. Roebling’s arches and cables—stone and steel, mass and line—is what makes the bridge visually memorable: it is cut at one end by the screen edge and printed at the other to disappear into the distance, where its beginnings and endings are ambiguous. Like his screen prints of the Statue of Liberty (1986), which he created when Lady Liberty turned one hundred, Warhol’s Brooklyn Bridge prints contain a layered nostalgia for the depicted monument.5 By off-register printing the image in various colors, he formally increased those sentiments of time.6 The proofs resemble his serial prints and paintings enshrining mass-cultural Pop Art iconography. Many of them, such as his portrait of Elizabeth Taylor on a gold background, purposely resemble quasi-religious cultural icons.7 Indeed, notwithstanding his representations of jet-set glamor and immersion in disco club society, Warhol paradoxically clung to an archaic piety and devotion to the Catholic Church, which had nurtured him spiritually since childhood and sustained his fascination with the ultimate polarities of life and death.8 Photography and screen printing remained at the core of Warhol’s images and oeuvre.9 While his prints are different from any photographs of the storied bridge, such as those by Walker Evans (1928–30), or thousands of examples by other artists in various media, they echo the subject’s cachet. With their unexpected colors and abstracted compositions, Warhol’s take on the bridge introduces surreal randomness, which converts the storied span into a Pop Art superstar that is quintessentially Warholian. RJMO


Brooklyn Bridge, Trial Proof (TP 14/25)

Andy Warhol