Harpenden Evening Decorative and Fine Arts Society

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Special Interest and Study Days

  • Report on Study Day 14th February 2014 Lecturer Mary Alexander
    New York! New York!
    The day was well-attended and, from the beginning, Mary Alexander surpassed all our expectations as she conveyed her knowledge and passion for New York. She has developed an imaginative digital manipulation of photos and maps to develop a visual collage of the variety of buildings at specific locations. This gives a real impression of being there and listening to a guide recounting the events, patrons of the time and social history.
    We were taken from times as early as the early 1600's through to the present day. The Dutch established New Amsterdam around 1624 and in 1664, the English conquered the area and renamed it New York, a name it has retained ever since. Originally, only the south western tip of Manhattan was the town, ending at Wall Street, the rest being farmland, but the spread of the city has been continuous and now the whole island, and much beyond, is built upon.
    We travelled in an open-top horse-drawn carriage past the Tile Club which was a group of 31 notable New York painters, sculptors, and architects including Stanford White in the late 1870's. There was a somewhat cavalier attitude to heritage, so many buildings were not preserved - the original Waldorf Hotel opened in 1893 but was pulled down to provide the site of the Empire State. Other buildings were re-located to the fashionable northern end of the island.
    Central Park was established in the mid-19th century as a wild recreation area. Trotting through it, we see Frick Mansion, the home of part of the donated collection of Henry Clay Frick the wealthy industrial financier and art patron. As we go, we are swept into the 1920's of clubs and fashion, the changing position of women and prohibition. We glimpse Gatsby in his mansion with a waterfront view, we watch the continual stream of nouveau riche guests who come to see and be seen. Places like the 21 Club of Greenwich Village are raided because of prohibition (1920 - 1933) and at the same time we see the consequences of the 1929 Wall Street Crash.
    Also in 1929, MoMA the museum of modern art was opened, the first in the world to focus on modern art, 6 floors of exhibition space. 1995 and we hear Frank Sinatra celebrating his 80 years My Way party with songs like NY NY and see the Empire Sate glowing blue. We are tempted by the architecture and content of the Guggenheim Museum, the Rockefeller Centre with the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden, then the Chrysler Building and the New Opera House.. We are introduced to the more familiar artists - Jason Pollock and Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol and Pop Art.

    To finish we come back to the "I love NY" logo and to the graphic and communication designer Milton Glaser and his psychedelic lines and patterns.

    As we ate an excellent lunch everyone was talking of visits to NY already made or an urgent need to make the first trip and follow Mary's trip.
    Liz Crompton and Cynthia Hayhurst