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Christopher Nevinson - The Strand by Night (1937)

Ernest Lawson - New York Street Scene (n.d.)

Today's December Double, 'The Strand by Night' by British painter Christopher Nevinson and 'New York Street Scene' by Canadian-American painter Ernest Lawson, remind me of my idealistic first impressions of the big city. As a young man I viewed the city with the same awe and majesty that one might identify with a natural wonder; those towering structures and bright city lights represented a whole new world to be explored—and most importantly, an escape from small town life, for better or worse.

'The Strand by Night' offers a side street view of a busy night scene. I love how this action is tightly framed between the two buildings, with the luminescent light just barely contained within those dark, rigid boundaries. I imagine continuing down this side street to finding myself stepping into that bright, magnificent world, bubbling with life and energy, and then losing myself in the city lights.

'New York Street Scene' is a different matter but no less spectacular. Here we have a daytime scene of a busy city street, with our point of view leading directly down the center and settling on a pair of faint buildings in the distance. Lawson's framing of these buildings, towering over our perspective from either side, resembles that of one's view from down within a steep canyon. Fantastic. This painting also recalls my first impression of LaSalle Ave in Chicago while looking south toward the Chicago Board of Trade.
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