Constructing America Museum exhibit captures NYC development

Portraits of legendary civic leaders in New York City and images of the Hudson harbor during the late 1800s and early1900s are part of the paintings exhibited at the Jersey City Museum through next summer in "Constructing America II: The American City and Its People."

The exhibit is a broad examination of the inhabitants of the American city that cuts across race, class, and gender. This show is part of a three-year project that examines how the lives of residents in urban cities in the United States differed drastically from today. The role of women, African-Americans and immigrant groups is closely examined through their portrayals in paintings and prints. In "Constructing America II" photography also provides a closer look at some of these iconic figures.

In the 1914 oil on canvas painting by Helen Turner titled "Morning News," the artist takes a look at how the upper-class lived and digested news during the Penny Press. It’s a powerful image of a woman reading a newspaper at the kitchen table, while wearing a white dress looking pensive. It subtly presents classism and suggests the upper-class in the city has time for culture and education.

Artist Colin Campbell Cooper illustrates a romantic scene of New York City in a 1922 piece titled "New York from Brooklyn." Cooper’s New York appears peaceful and prosperous. The artist is straightforward with the postcard-like message that New York was the gateway to the "land of opportunity." Another poignant piece in the exhibit is Edward Henry Pothost’s oil on canvas "Who’s Who at the Seashore," which depicts kids at the shore playfully looking for seashells and items to keep recreational. Another romantic view of life in the city. The piece does not address wealth or religion – values important of that time.

"Constructing America II: The American City and Its People" is important because it creates an understanding of how artists and the mainstream viewed their surroundings. Themes of history and ethics are raised in the show, and portraits of the bourgeoisie will give a greater insight to the way of thinking of more than a century ago. The poor do not have portraits.

"Constructing America II" will be exhibited on the second floor of the Jersey City Museum thought Aug. 15. For information visit The museum is located at 350 Montgomery St. q


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