Joseph Stella (1877-1946)
Joseph Stella (1877-1946)

Painter's Row As It Stood in the Spring of 1908 (Pittsburgh)

Details
Joseph Stella (1877-1946)
Painter's Row As It Stood in the Spring of 1908 (Pittsburgh)
signed 'Stella' (lower right)--bears date '1910' (lower left)
charcoal on paper laid down on board
11 ¾ x 18 ½ in. (29.9 x 47 cm.)
Executed in 1908.
Provenance
Rabin and Krueger Gallery, Newark, New Jersey.
Dr. Robert Gross, acquired from the above.
By descent to the present owner.
Literature
F.E. Crowell, "Painter's Row: The United States Steel Corporation as a Pittsburgh Landlord," Charities and The Commons: The Pittsburgh Survey II: The Place and Its Social Forces, vol. 21, no. 19, February 6, 1909, opp. p. 899, illustrated.
F.E. Crowell, "Painter's Row," The Pittsburgh Survey: Findings in Six Volumes, New York, 1914, opp. p. 133, illustrated.
I.B. Jaffe, Joseph Stella, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1970, pp. 21, 176, 217, no. 517, fig. 17, illustrated (as Pittsburgh II: Painter's Row: Worker's Houses).
J.I.H. Baur, Joseph Stella, New York, 1971, p. 26, pl. 20, illustrated (as Pittsburgh, Workers' Houses).
I.B. Jaffe, Joseph Stella's Symbolism, San Francisco, California, 1994, p. VIII, illustrated (as Painter's Row: Workers' Houses).
R. Younger, Industry in Art: Pittsburgh, 1812 to 1920, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 2006, pp. 143-44, fig. 85, illustrated (as Painter's Row: Workers' Houses).
"The Next Page: Pittsburgh 150," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 14, 2008, p. 68, illustrated (as Painter’s Row, Spring 1908).
Exhibited
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Joseph Stella, October 23-December 4, 1963, p. 51, no. 78 (as Pittsburgh, Workers' Houses).
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Joseph Stella, April 22-October 9, 1994, pp. 23, 261, 270, fig. 25, illustrated.

Lot Essay

In 1908, Joseph Stella was commissioned by The Pittsburgh Survey to complete a series of drawings documenting the people and conditions in the bustling Pennsylvania city. Producing over a hundred drawings of its workers, mills and neighborhoods over the next several years, Stella poetically reflected in 1946, "I was greatly impressed by Pittsburgh. It was a real revelation. Often shrouded by fog and smoke, her black mysterious mass cut in the middle by the fantastic, torturous Allegheny River, and like a battlefield, ever pulsating, throbbing with the innumerable explosion of its steel mills, was like the stunning realization of some of the most stirring infernal regions sung by Dante. In the thunderous voice of the wind, that at times with the most genial fury was lashing here and there fog and smoke to change the scenario for new unexpected spectacles, I could hear the bitter, pungent Dantesque terzina." (as quoted in I.B. Jaffe, Joseph Stella, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1970, pp. 19-20)

In Painter's Row As It Stood in the Spring of 1908, Stella evokes this smoky maelstrom of activity through a gestural charcoal that captures the feeling, rather than the details, of the gritty urban scene. As Irma B. Jaffe writes, the present work "portrays some company-owned shacks in a section of Pittsburgh that was known as 'Painter's Row.' The sense of pathos sometimes present in Stella's figure drawings is felt here, although restrained by the elimination of details. The specific horrors of life in these unsanitary, squalid, infested hovels are transformed into a generalized scene of dark and dingy desolation, reflecting not the spirit of a crusading realist but that of a humble man who identifies with the sad, neglected, marginal living of the oppressed, the cast-outs, the uprooted--the exiles from beauty." (Joseph Stella, p. 21)
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