Sunday, 15 April 2012

Washington Square Park, New York

When I was 22 years old I lived in New York for a short while – I arrived knowing nobody and with nowhere to stay. On the flight over I found myself sitting next to a lady that happened to be the Art Director of a New York magazine I knew and admired – we shared a cab to Greenwich Village where she dropped me off at the Washington Square Hotel, famed haunt of artists and writers. I spent my first evening, a very humid and hot Autumn evening, listening to the various musicians just hanging out in Washington Square Park. This was my introduction to New York, and Greenwich Village remains to this day my favourite part of the city.

In the course of researching this blog, I’ve noticed that a lot of American artists, particularly those associated with New York City, like the Ashcan School, have at one time or another undertaken paintings and drawings of Washington Square Park, so I thought I’d do a short post that subject.


A recent photograph © Poul Webb

Washington Square Park is one of the best-known of New York City’s 1,900 public parks. At 9.75 acres it is a landmark in the Manhattan neighbourhood of Greenwich Village, as well as a meeting place and centre for cultural activity. In 1826 the City bought the land, the square was laid out and levelled, and it was turned into the Washington Military Parade Ground. Military parade grounds were public spaces specified by the City where volunteer militia companies responsible for the nation's defence would train.

The streets surrounding the square became one of the city's most desirable residential areas in the 1830s. The protected row of Greek Revival style houses on the north side of the park remain from that time. In 1849 and 1850 the parade ground was reworked into the first park on the site. More paths were added and a new fence was built around it. In 1871, it came under the control of the newly-formed New York City Department of Parks, and it was re-designed again, with curving rather than straight secondary paths.

In 1889, to celebrate the centennial of George Washington’s inauguration as President of the United States, a large plaster and wood Memorial Arch was erected over Fifth Avenue just north of the park. The temporary plaster and wood arch was so popular that in 1892 a permanent marble arch, designed by the New York architect Stanford White, was erected, standing 23 metres high. The inscription on the arch reads: “Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair. The event is in the hand of God.” Washington. White modelled the arch after the 1806 Arc de Triomphe in Paris. In 1918 two statues of George Washington were added to the north side. The first fountain was completed in 1852. The fountain was replaced in 1872. The monument to Giuseppe Garibaldi was unveiled in 1888.


William Glackens c1908 
Washington Square Park 
oil on canvas 35.6 x 47 cm

Carl Gustaf Nelson 
oil on board

Everett Shinn 1915 
conté crayon and watercolour

Everett Shinn 1952

Everett Shinn 
Washington Square, New York at Boston

Everett Shinn c1945 
oil on canvas

George Luks 
charcoal on paper

John Sloan 1923  
Washington Arch 
etching 25.7 x 17.3 cm

John Sloan 1925 
Sculpture in Washington Square 
etching

John Sloan 1926 
Buses in Washington Square 
etching

John Sloan 
Easter Eve, Washington Square 
etching 34.6 x 27.8 cm

Paul Cornoyer 
oil on canvas

Paul Cornoyer 
oil on canvas

Paul Cornoyer 
oil on canvas

Paul Cornoyer 
oil on canvas

Paul Cornoyer c1908 
Late Afternoon 
oil on canvas

Paul Cornoyer Winter 
oil on canvas

Paul Cornoyer 
oil on canvas

William Glackens 1910 
Descending from the Bus 
oil on canvas

William Glackens 1910 
Washington Square

William Glackens 1910 
Washington Square

William Glackens 1911-12 
The Arch 
oil on canvas

William Glackens c1912 
Italo-American Celebration 
oil on canvas

William Glackens 1910 
Washington Square
Bela de Tirefort 1938
Washington Square
oil on panel
Fernand Lungren 1897
Washington Square North

William Glackens1912 
March Day oil on canvas




5 comments:

  1. what a beautiful idea!
    there is one description which I don't understand: "Everett Shinn c1945 oil on canvas" - did you put the year right? looking at the costumes and the horse-drawn carriage...

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  2. Thank you for your comment. I believe this is the correct date for the Shinn, though I agree it has a rather retro feel to it.

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  4. Wonderful entry in your blog; I love the Ashcan painters and its great to find a kindred spirit. I was in New York last week to see the George Bellows show at the Met and found myself in Washington Square where I tried to capture the space in paint too see http://robinlchandler.wordpress.com/2013/02/26/washington-square/ Magical place! Enjoyed your watercolours!

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  5. Dear Poul, I am so pleased you like my Washington Square watercolour! And yes, while I was writing my blog entry I found your site and your discussion of the Ashcan artists and I mentioned you in my blog and linked to you! Ping! Take care.

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