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George Bellows and New York, 1900–1930

Childe Hassam
American, 1859–1935

Fifth Avenue, Noon

1916
Etching
Gift of Mr. & Mrs. Charles McKelvy, Jr., 1977.77

Fifth Avenue was and still is the home to mansions of the wealthy and an elite commercial district. During the period between 1900 and 1915, it underwent massive changes and became representative of the rapid development and the concentration of financial wealth in the city.

Hassam’s treatment of New York City shows his interest in lighting effects and composition. The balance of density on the right with the blank face of the structure on the left, the remote viewpoint far back from the street, and the subtle contrast between light and dark create a sense of harmony. In contrast to the social concerns of many about the new problems of crowded urban life (subjects often explored and even celebrated by Ashcan school artists), some artists emphasized the unique aesthetics of the city, stripping it of aspects perceived as frightening or alien.

For this print Hassam used an unusual paper source: a page from a minister’s bible that presented the text in a single column in order to leave room for notes.