Shinn was an American realist painter of urban life who loved painting scenes from the NY theater scene. He’s associated with the Ashcan School of early 20th century American painters like John Sloan for the realistic depictions of everyday goings-on in the big city, like in one of my fave pics of his above, The Canfield Gambling House (1912).
Winter scenes always make me nostalgic for living in the northeast, now that I’ve been in SoCal lo these many years. Shinn’s depictions of the overall iciness are what draw me into this one. The whites are SO bright, with light reflecting off the icy surfaces regardless of texture – hard steps, flexible umbrella, soft horseback – but the ice doesn’t care. Everything freezes in winter. The ivy on the walls is dormant and bare. It’s zombie ivy, getting sleeted into a deeper coma. Wonderful subtle touches of white snow in every nook and cranny of the door, the carving above it, the windowsills, the wheel, the driver’s sleeve…. everywhere. There’s no escape from the driving flurries that are not depicted as falling flakes anywhere, only as landed residue. His technique is wonderful.
The umbrella and defensive posturing of the couple makes me think they’re in a freezing rain, one of the more annoying of winter storms. You’d think the gambling house interior would be welcoming, warm and cozy – so I’ll go ahead and assume with all of my eternal optimism that they just lost their shirts at the tables.
Shinn’s numerous depictions of NY theater clearly show the heavy influence of Degas. He paints performers, dancers and gentleman in the same style as Degas’ dancers on stage, only without Degas’ constant depiction of physical pain & strain.
I like this one, The Orchestra Pit, Old Proctor’s 5th Avenue Theater (1906). You get a nice front row seat’s eye-view of the player sitting in front of his music sheets, his black suit and matchin’ hair set against the lights shooting upwards to the Degas-esque figures on stage, as well as a nice secondary lighting effect of the orchestra players’ lamps.
Great colors too – the bright reds and yellow-orange-tans of the lower part with some hints of the greens and blues in the stage decoration. I like how the performers look like they’re having a good time and how the orchestra players all look like Edgar Allan Poe. I’d like to see an all-Poe orchestra play for some Degas-like dancers with sets by Edward Gorey, I guess. But instead, I can look at this painting and imagine. Isn’t that what art is all about anyway?
Coming up: more movie posts, and a journey through the music of XTC since I just watched a decent documentary about them.