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Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Park Lamps and Acorns

 

A bunch of green acorns just caught my eye while walking in Eagle Rock Park. Interesting how subtly the shapes of nature were incorporated into the standard forms of traditional 19th century urbanism. A lot of the old street lamps look like flowers. I think its an artifact of the mainstreaming of certain elements of cultural Romanticism by the late Victorian period.

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Same corner, today:

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George Inness

Click on the above photo to see my full album.

Just some pictures from a recent visit to the Montclair Art Museum, which has a nice collection of George Inness paintings and personal effects. Inness was one of the best artists of 19th century America, specifically, the Northeast. A native of the Hudson Valley, he was sometimes associated with the Hudson River School, but he maintained a distinct approach that defies classification. His palette reminds me a little bit of Van Gogh’s, but his subject matter is much more realist. He spent a bunch of time in Montclair, taking the countryside around Newark as inspiration for a number of his paintings.

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Casey Bill Weldon, 1936.

We gonna leave here, mama. I don’t want you staying here.
I don’t need no iceman, I’m gonna get me a Frigidaire
That’s what I’m gonna do when we get on the outskirts of town.

The promise of the modern American suburb was a measure of independence. Given how annoying the constant interaction of urban life can be, the suburbs seemed to offer a wholesome alternative. And when the suburbs were being built as physical towns, they offered urbanism on a more human scale than big, industrial cities. But what happened when the suburbs, because of evolving land use policies, essentially became the permanent outskirts of town? When the development of urban nodes — with their opportunities for social and commercial interactions — was banned within walking distance of people’s new homes?

In some cases, suburban developments offered a space to create artificial fiefdoms; a separation of households from entire categories of interactions. Many blue-collar American men faced the first green shoots of female economic and political parity in the period preceding the suburban boom. (American women in the 1940s had proven their economic power by essentially running the domestic industrial system while the men who were their peers were in Europe and the Pacific, fighting World War II.) A certain type of American man would likely have recognized that his tenuous status was in flux. Having the iceman hanging around was not a pleasant thought!

It is well documented that mid-20th century suburban development patterns helped prolong the racial disparities that characterized American life. My question is, to what extent did the post-war land-use policies also slow the progress of feminism? And to what extent did the men who participated in these developments recognize and value that aspect of the physical forms of these communities? Having listened to American women who lived through the mid-20th century, it is hard not to recognize how stifling of an arrangement that iteration of suburbia could be.

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Rome and the Romantics
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An excellent exhibit at The Morgan illustrates the study of Rome by 19th-century visual artists and writers; the influence of the Grand Tour on artists of the time; and the maps and guidebooks that visitors followed. I think the images speak for themselves. My Flickr gallery has a lot more images, some of which are very close, for detail. Not too many exhibits combine ancient urban planning, Romantic-era art and writing, and 19th century cartography. We really enjoyed this one!

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Liberty Tower
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My favorite early skyscraper in Manhattan. Beautiful!

Also, Pound & Pence, on the main floor, makes a pretty good burger.

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A supplement to Harper’s Weekly, from May 6, 1871 — 145 years ago!

NewYorkFromABalloon1871HarpersWkly

BalloonAboveNY

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Hushed in the smoky haze of summer sunset,
When I came home again from far-off places,
How many times I saw my western city
  Dream by her river.

Then for an hour the water wore a mantle
Of tawny gold and mauve and misted turquoise
Under the tall and darkened arches bearing
  Gray, high-flung bridges.

Against the sunset, water-towers and steeples
Flickered with fire up the slope to westward,
And old warehouses poured their purple shadows
  Across the levee.

High over them the black train swept with thunder,
Cleaving the city, leaving far beneath it
Wharf-boats moored beside the old side-wheelers
  Resting in twilight.

From Flame and Shadow (1920), by Sara Teasdale.

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I took these pictures in October 2015, during a visit that I made to City Hall (1802-12), with Honey, as part of Open House New York. City Hall is located in New York’s historic town green — the topic of a previous LT post. My current office is at 250 Broadway, which is the glass building located just to the right of the Woolworth Building in a couple of the outdoor photos. More about the history and architecture of City Hall can be found here. Images of the Council Chamber, including its incredible ceiling, are at the end of the series.

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432 Park Avenue. Photo: Brad Clinesmith.

432 Park Avenue, New York City, under construction. Photo: Brad Clinesmith.

The October issue of The Real Deal has an article surveying the supertall residential projects — completed, under construction, and on the drawing board — across New York City.

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