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New York Artists - Sculpture, Rebellion, and Photography

This series introduces artists associated with certain states; this one features the state of New York.

I'll begin with a rare nod to a female artist from an early era.

b. 1875 d. 1942

Born in New York City to Cornelius Vanderbilt, Gertrude kept up with her brothers and

sister in the opulence of the family status and the norms of private tutors. Small drawings and watercolor paintings were among her journals at a young age. Able to attend prestigious art schools, including Paris where she was influenced by Auguste Rodin. Sculpture later became her media of choice.

Gertrude was prolific in getting commissions in New York City, where much of her sculptures still stand today. Her great wealth offered her the opportunity to become a patron of the arts and her collections. These early gallery pieces became the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Dutch governor Peter Stuyversant stands in NYC

This sculpture of Peter Stuyvesant is among the many that Whitney produced for memorials in New York City. Stuyvesant was a Dutch Governor.

Historically, groups of artists with the styles of the period will create a movement that reflects a particular genre. During the era, Whitney would have been among what was called the Ashcan School (1930s), early twentieth century American urban realist painters.


Robert Henri

b. 1865 d. 1929

Portrait of Gertrude Whitney by Robert Henri 1916

Robert Henri, in some ways the spiritual father of this school, "wanted art to be akin to journalism... he wanted paint to be as real as mud, as the clods of horse-shit and snow, that froze on Broadway in the winter..."

The name "Ashcan school" is a tongue-in-cheek reference to other "schools of art". Ashcan works were generally darker in tone and more roughly painted. It was generally a reaction to American Impressionalism. Instead of the soft, light tones of the Impressionist works, the palette was dark, and the application of paint was heavy.

Boy wearing a blue tam painting by Robert Henri 1918
The Blue Tam by Robert Henri 1918

At this same time, a similar path transforms the perception of photography in the early twentieth century. Social and cultural change—on a massive, unprecedented scale. prevailed and like everyone else, artists were radically affected by industrialization, political revolution, trench warfare, airplanes, talking motion pictures, radios, automobiles, and much more—and they wanted to create art that was as radical and “new” as modern life itself.

Experimentation exploded in the arts. Dadaism challenged the boundaries of traditional art with performances, poetry, installations, and photomontage that use the materials of everyday culture instead of paint, ink, canvas, or bronze.


b. 1898 d. 1995

Eisenstaedt was a staff photographer for Life magazine after moving to the United States from Germany. Life featured more than 90 covers by the photographer. Among the most famous photographs by Eisenstaedt is one is taken on V-day at the end of WWII.

The photographer never got the couple's names but they were known to be complete strangers. [The man and woman remained anonymous for decades. (Details from Wiki)

V-Day in Times Square by Eisenstaedt Dec 14, 1945


Garry Winogrand

b.1928 d.1984

Moving to the mid-20th century, the theme continued to be urban culture. In the 1960s and 1970s, this "street photographer" defined his images with more of an attitude and a style in his photos of New York City. A lesson in every frame is gritty, in-your-face realism.

Present Day

Jen Lewin

Coming full circle, we find Jen Lewin, a contemporary artist who has a virtual piece that she installed in New York City [ended March 28, 2022]. It comprised over 100 interactive circular pads activated by visitors' touch and constituted an artistic "pool." The field of concentric circles uses a technology developed by Lewin herself that allows individuals to create their own light and color show by simply stepping, dancing, or jumping on each pad.

See her fabulous website here: Jen Lewin Studio.

Thank you for joining this look at New York Artists.

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