Union Square

Clifford Isaac Addams (1876 - 1942)
Oil on canvas
30¾ x 42⅝ inches
Signed upper right: Addams

Provenance

Hanover Square Gallery, Brooklyn, New York, by 2012

Private collection, New York, by 2015

Private collection, Beverly Hills, California

Literature

David Adams Cleveland, “The Twelve Characteristics of Tonalism,” in “What is Tonalism?” American Tonalist Society, accessed November 2, 2021, https://www.americantonalistsociety.com/what-is-tonalism/.

David Adams Cleveland, “Adventures in Scholarship: Clifford Addams (1876–1942),” Artsy, last modified April 12, 2015, https://www.artsy.net/article/david-adams-cleveland-adventures-in-scholarship-clifford-addams-1876-1942.

Note

This composition faces south toward the bottom of Union Square, New York, with the prominent sign for the flagship department store of Orbach’s visible. The store, which was located there from 1923 until 1954, when it moved to a new site on West 34th Street, had the slogan “A Business in Millions, a Profit in Pennies.”

Tonalist scholar David Adams Cleveland wrote of this work:

Union Square, allows us a glimpse of the fascinating near-visionary quality of Addams’ mature work, when he’d shed the aesthetic polish of his earlier exhibition pieces for something wholly modern but distinctly grounded in hard-won painterly skills. Much of the early Whisterian tonalities remain, along with the lush transitions of muted colors of a city in the first blush of evening. But it is the expressive quality of the brushwork mirroring the energetic bustle of the city that captivates, and allies Addams with Henri’s circle of urban realists. There is a deep affection for the hard life of the streets and the teaming crowds. The packed sidewalk along 14th Street where the sign for Orbachs, the famous department store, hangs prominently fairly seethes with rambling shoppers and sidewalk vendors. This is not a tourist view but a non-sentimental evocation of a city electric with felt life. The paint marks are as alive as the fabric of the city they depict, full of febrile otherworldliness as twilight descends and the neon signs of the city begin an eerie glow. Very few of Addams’ foreground figures can even be identified as distinct pedestrians, so vivid is the abstraction of form, an abstraction that acts to viscerally communicate the honking crush and jostled blur of rush hour.[1]

 

 

[1] David Adams Cleveland, “Adventures in Scholarship: Clifford Addams (1876–1942),” Artsy, last modified April 12, 2015, https://www.artsy.net/article/david-adams-cleveland-adventures-in-scholarship-clifford-addams-1876-1942.

 

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