JOSEPH STELLA (1877-1946)
JOSEPH STELLA (1877-1946)
JOSEPH STELLA (1877-1946)
JOSEPH STELLA (1877-1946)
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Modern American Masterworks from the Ted Shen Collection
JOSEPH STELLA (1877-1946)

Brooklyn Bridge

JOSEPH STELLA (1877-1946)
Brooklyn Bridge
signed and dated 'Joseph/Stella/1917' (lower right)
crayon and pencil over photograph
17 x 15 1/4 in. (43.2 x 38.7 cm.)
Dr. Hilde L. Mosse, New York, circa 1942-43.
Private collection, by descent from the above.
Martha Parrish & James Reinish, Inc., New York.
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 2005.
J.I.H. Baur, Joseph Stella, New York, 1971, no. 46, illustrated (as Study for Brooklyn Bridge).
New York, Museum of Modern Art; Manchester, New Hampshire, Currier Gallery of Art; Andover, Massachusetts, Addison Gallery; Atlanta, Georgia, Atlanta Art Association; Dallas, Texas, Museum for Contemporary Arts; Colorado Springs, Colorado, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center; Toronto, National Gallery of Canada; Baltimore, Maryland, Baltimore Museum of Fine Art; Kansas City, Missouri, Nelson Gallery of Fine Arts; St. Louis, Missouri, City Art Museum of St. Louis; Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum; San Francisco, California, San Francisco Museum of Art; Phoenix, Arizona, Phoenix Art Museum, Joseph Stella: Drawings, October 26, 1960-May 21, 1962, p. 2, no. 20.
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Joseph Stella, October 2-November 4, 1963, no. 84 (as Study for Brooklyn Bridge).
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Joseph Stella, April 22-October 9, 1994, p. 272.

Brought to you by

Tylee Abbott
Tylee Abbott Vice President, Head of American Art

Lot Essay

The present work relates to Joseph Stella's celebrated oil Brooklyn Bridge (1919-20) in the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut.

Now synonymous with his career, the Brooklyn Bridge first fascinated Stella shortly after immigrating to New York from Italy in 1896. The artist later reflected, "For years I have been waiting for the joy of being capable to leap up to the subject--for Brooklyn Bridge had become an ever growing obsession ever since I had come to impressed me as the shrine containing all the efforts of the new civilization of America--the eloquent meeting of all forces arising in a superb assertion of their powers, in apotheosis. To render limitless the space on which to enact my emotions, I chose the mysterious depth of night." (as quoted in B. Haskell, Joseph Stella, New York, 1994, p. 206)

Barbara Haskell explains, "He brought to the subject not only an immigrant's desire to celebrate the wealth and awesome grandeur of the New World, but a poet's wish to wrest mythic significance from everyday reality...Stella elevated the bridge into a spiritual symbol at once majestic and monstrous...To convey his mystic vision, Stella juxtaposed a palette of resonant blues, reds, and blacks against radiant silver-gray tones. Chromatically, the result alluded not only to light filtering through a stained-glass window but to spiritual illumination emerging from darkness." (Joseph Stella, p. 85)

Upon the Yale painting's debut, it was heralded as "the most successful piece of American modernism," with Hamilton Easter Field praising the work as "the apotheosis of the bridge. It is not the bridge seen without, from the East River, but from within, from the central passage way which has been left for us pedestrians...The painting to me is more real, more true than a literal transcription of the bridge could be." (Joseph Stella, p. 101)

With the Brooklyn Bridge thus established as his signature subject, Stella continued to return to his fascination with the modern marvel in various media throughout his lifetime. His depictions of the bridge can also be found in the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, The Newark Museum in New Jersey, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

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