Gifford Beal - Elevated, Columbus Avenue, New York, (1916)
Francis Luis Mora - Subway Riders, New York City (1914)
In the developed world so much of our lives are spent in commute, and for many folks that means taking public transit, an experience enjoyed by some and loathed by most everyone else. As part of my commute into work, I take both a bus and train, and despite occasionally having to deal with an offensively drunk passenger, it sure beats the alternative of driving down into the Chicago Loop each weekday morning.
Today's December Double, 'Elevated, Columbus Avenue, New York' by American painter Gifford Beal and 'Subway Riders, New York City's by fellow American painter Francis Luis Mora, both provide insightful observations of passengers using the city's transit system. I love how these two paintings complement each other, providing different, captivating views of this to-to-day activity.
Let's begin with Neal's painting. Shaded beneath the train tracks, Framed within a rigid structures of iron and steel, 'Elevated' shows passengers traveling up and down the stairways while others walking alongside the street. The vertical beams and rectangular windows on the buildings in the background provide an orderly, geometric environment for our human subjects. I also enjoy Beal's observations of people on the street, including the two gentlemen helping each other at the far left.
On the other hand, the 'Subway Riders' painting has a more human quality, and I'm immediately drawn to the young woman looking outward at our point of view, presumably that of a fellow passenger. Sitting down with crane in hand, she has elegance and grace about her while riding this crowded train car. The other passengers are immersed in their newspapers, catching up on current events, but this young woman has maintained awareness of her surroundings, and for reasons unknown has directed her attention toward us. This work wonderfully captures a moment of connection, however fleeting, between two passengers.
Oh, and don't think I didn't notice the man with the package in his lap in the far left. That's another story in itself.