CHRISTOPHER RICHARD WYNNE NEVINSON (1889-1946)
CHRISTOPHER RICHARD WYNNE NEVINSON (1889-1946)

New York: An Abstraction

Details
CHRISTOPHER RICHARD WYNNE NEVINSON (1889-1946)
New York: An Abstraction
drypoint, 1921, on laid paper, signed in pencil, a fine impression of this exceptionally rare print, with wide margins, pale light- and mount staining, generally in very good condition, framed
Plate 125 x 89 mm., Sheet 280 x 228 mm.
Literature
Black 77

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Lot Essay

For a Futurist artist like Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson, New York and specifically Manhattan epitomised the optimism of the Futurist movement, their enthusiasm for a modern world defined by speed, technology, and mechanisation. In the case of the present work, New York: An Abstraction, the city also represented the rise of the new, industrial metropolis on a scale that had not been seen before.
Nevinson made his first trip to New York in 1919 on occasion of the opening of an exhibition of his prints at the prestigious Keppel Galleries, which had been organised by the co-owner of the Leicester Galleries in London, Oliver Brown. In particular his war prints of 1918 were a success with the Americans. However, through a combination of sluggish sales, a general dislike of the British at the time and the artist's tendency to alienate the locals, a second visit in 1920 was a far less enjoyable experience, which left him with a jaded view of the city and a growing dislike of America in general.
Reflecting his change in attitude, he renamed a painting of the same year, closely related to the present etching, to The Soul of the Soulless City (‘New York - an Abstraction’).
With both the painting and the etching, Nevinson created an image that is both still and unnerving, conveying a sense of claustrophobia and utter abandonment amongst the high-rise architecture. No other humans can be seen and if one were to shout, only an echo would be heard, reverberating off the surrounding monoliths.
The imagery of New York: An Abstraction, still influences us today, as can be seen in the recent online series of Tate Worlds: Art Reimagined for Minecraft. Taking the painting as its inspiration, the New York of Nevinson’s time has been reimagined as a Minecraft map: visitors to the website can board a train taking them past landmarks that Nevinson observed, before roller-coasting into the future amongst the skyscrapers.
To our knowledge only one other impression of this rare drypoint has been offered at auction in the last thirty years. We could trace only one example in a public collection, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
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