Jonas Lie (American, 1980-1940)
Dusk on Lower Broadway
Oil on canvas, ca. 1910
Gift of the family in memory of Dr. James B. Thomas, rector of All Saints Episcopal Church, Winter Park, FL. 1957.64
Born in Moss, Norway to a Norwegian father and an American mother, Jonas Lie went on to become one of the leading American landscape painters of the early 20th century. Following his father’s death in 1892, the artist moved to Plainsfield, New Jersey to support his mother and sisters. In the States, Lie pursued an artistic career, beginning his arts education at the National Academy of Design and continuing his studies at the Cooper Union and the Art Students League of New York. The metropolitan environment of New York City soon became the primary subject of the artist’s paintings, and Lie became famous for his atmospheric renderings of the cities of the northeast.
Looking at Jonas Lie’s Dusk on Lower Broadway, one is transported to the wide avenues and hazy skylines of New York City in the early 20th century. During this time period, the city experienced waves of change as industrial innovations allowed for the construction of buildings to unprecedented new heights. In this composition, Lie expertly captures the evolving landscape of this iconic city. The vantage point places the viewer on the street level, emphasizing the looming height of the tall buildings lining Broadway as the eye is drawn upwards. In the distance on the right side of the composition stands the Singer Building, which at the time was the tallest building in the world. The blurred appearance of the silhouetted skyscrapers reflects not only the smoky air of the industrial era and the fading light of the moments before nightfall, but also the influence of French Impressionism, with which the artist became familiar during a trip to Paris in 1906.
The sculptural work by Danish artist Danh Vo to the left of this painting takes an alternative approach to depicting the city of New York. A part of the artist’s “We the People” series, this work is one of 250 full-scale replicas of pieces from the Statue of Liberty. A symbol of both New York City specifically and the United States at large, the Statue of Liberty—and this unique artwork—evokes notions of liberty, nationality, and place which compliment Lie’s romantic rendering of the Big City.