The City Lived: Challenging the Plight of the Metropolis

By Makenzi Fricker

This virtual exhibition attempts to examine the urban experience as lived, witnessed, and recorded in the form of printmaking by artists living in American cities, primarily in New York, during the period from 1910 to 1950. Relying on historical documents, oral histories, and most importantly, the prints themselves, I identify several major themes among the subject matter of the artworks.  Many scholars have bemoaned the problems which are endemic in cities: homelessness, poverty, crime, race riots, and the marginalization of the working poor, as well as the isolation, loneliness, and discontent which seems incongruous with the sheer volume of humanity in a metropolis.  The artists, too, saw and depicted these woes. However, less mentioned in the scholarly literature is the joy of living in cities, even during the first half of the twentieth century, amongst world wars, economic depression, and re-definition of social norms. This joy seems to have been predicated upon the intimate, personal interactions which comprise the foundations of everyday life, which in turn fostered collaboration and a sense of community for both the artists themselves and those whose lives were depicted.  The artists observed a duality in the urban experience that encompassed all of these realities, and prompts the viewer, historian, or contemporary artist to re-visit conventional ideas of the city as site and as experience.

Featuring approximately 40 works on paper by Fritz Eichenberg, Bernard Brussel-Smith, Isabel Bishop, Edward Hopper, and Martin Lewis, among others.

Click the link to download the essay for TheCityLived.


Focus is a new series of small, specific exhibitions that explore a subject with insight and brevity, drawn exclusively from the PrintsAmerica collection.  Focus exhibitions will be hosted only on our online platform, but will include high resolution images, scholarly text, and detailed artwork information to facilitate engagement with the exhibition content. Experimentation with publishing our Focus series is ongoing, and will manifest itself in variety of forms.

The first in our Focus series is “A Modernist Selection”, which surveys mid to late twentieth century American printmaking in abstracted and nonrepresentational styles. It includes works by the founder of the Tamarind Institute, June Wayne, as well as Adja Yunkers and Milton Avery. Written text to accompany the image selection is forthcoming.

Focus A Modernist Selection


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