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Joseph Stella

The Brooklyn Bridge: Variation on an Old Theme

1939

On View

Floor 8

Hurst Family Galleries

Artist

Joseph Stella (1877-1946)

Title

The Brooklyn Bridge: Variation on an Old Theme

Date

1939

Medium

Oil on canvas

Dimensions

Overall: 70 1/4 × 42 3/16 in. (178.4 × 107.2 cm)

Credit line

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase

Accession number

42.15

Object Label

To Italian-born Joseph Stella, who immigrated to New York at the age of nineteen, New York City was a nexus of frenetic, form-shattering power. In the engineering marvel of the Brooklyn Bridge, which he first depicted in 1918 and returned to throughout his career, he found a contemporary technological monument that embodied the modern human spirit. Here, Stella portrays the bridge with a linear dynamism borrowed from Italian Futurism. He captures the dizzying height and awesome scale of the bridge from a series of fractured perspectives, combining dramatic views of radiating cables, stone masonry, cityscapes, and night sky. The large scale of the work—it is nearly six feet tall—conjures a Renaissance altar, while the Gothic style of the massive pointed arches evokes medieval churches. By combining contemporary architecture and historical allusions, Stella transformed the Brooklyn Bridge into a twentieth-century symbol of divinity, the quintessence of modern life and the Machine Age.

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