Traces of the Hand

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Traces of the Hand: Master Drawings from the Collection of Frederick and Lucy S. Herman

The American Scene

Everyday American urban life in the twentieth century is another subject that attracted the Hermans. The four drawings shown in this section exemplify the work of some of the most important American artists of city life, who brought to their work a commitment to depicting the lives of ordinary people, frequently for illustrations in the popular press and often in response to progressive political ideas. At the same time these artists employed the formal principles instilled in them by their training in an academic tradition rooted in Renaissance and Baroque art. Sloan’s Boys Selling Newspapers captures an instance of lower-class street life, while giving it a simple, cohesive monumentality through the repetition of forms. Typical of these artists is Sloan’s economy of gesture in characterizing the boys and their relationships in a few simple strokes, something seen as well in Bellows’ even more pared-down technique. The care with which Marsh locates his voluptuous young woman among the rectilinear geometries of urban architecture is as fully the product of his training as Bishop’s studied use of contrapposti (oppositions) deriving from Renaissance art evident in the contrasting poses and lighting of the man and woman, suggesting a narrative of the couple’s relationship with the simplest graphic means.

Artists, Titles, and Accession Numbers

George Wesley Bellows, Study of Two Salvation Army Musicians for Energizing the Broken (Salvation Army), 2006.11.6 >

Isabel Bishop, Couple on a Park Bench #16, 2007.15.17 >

Reginald Marsh, Girl Walking in Front of New York City Brownstone, 2006.11.39 >

John Sloan, Boys Selling Newspapers, 2007.15.73 >


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