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Christopher Street, Greenwich Village

1934 Beulah R. Bettersworth Born: St. Louis, Missouri 1894 Died: 1968 oil on canvas 30 1/8 x 24 1/4 in. (76.5 x 61.5 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Transfer from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service 1965.18.7 Not currently on view


Exhibition Label

A wintry corner of Greenwich Village lives in this painting as Beulah Bettersworth knew it when she and her husband inhabited 95 Christopher Street, a block away. Closely observed details draw the viewer into the painting to join Bettersworth's neighbors hurrying through the slushy snow, catching a whiff of tobacco from the cigar store in the foreground. Snow melts from the roof of St. Veronica's Catholic Church, whose towers are visible behind the Ninth Avenue "L" station. The elevated train station had been an elegant adaptation of a Swiss chalet when it was built in 1867, but by Bettersworth’s time it was an aging relic soon to be torn down. Like the rusting "L," the famous bohemian artistic colony that had enlivened Greenwich Village in the early twentieth century faded as the decades passed. Yet artists like Bettersworth still found homes there and with the advent of the Depression, low rents attracted a new generation of poverty-stricken young poets and painters to the Village’s storied garrets. Perhaps the colorful aura of the Village appealed to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who chose this modest canvas to hang in the White House.

1934: A New Deal for Artists exhibition label

Luce Center Label

Beulah Bettersworth lived on Christopher Street in New York's Greenwich Village. She worked for the Works Progress Administration during the Depression, and in this scene she captured the lively block of her street between Hudson and Greenwich avenues. Commuters bundled in winter coats make their way through the snow to catch trains bound for Newark and Hoboken. The steeples of St. Veronica's Catholic Church loom above the chalet-style El station on the Ninth Avenue line, constructed between 1867 and 1879. The elevated trains, the city's original rapid transit system, were displaced by the subway system during the 1930s. They were just beginning to be dismantled when Bettersworth painted this scene, and only six years later the station would be demolished. This canvas was included in a 1934 exhibition of WPA artists held at Washington's Corcoran Gallery of Art, where President Roosevelt selected it for display in the White House. It was transferred to the Smithsonian by the National Park Service in 1965.

Keywords

Architecture Exterior - commercial - store

Architecture Exterior - religious - church

Cityscape - New York - Greenwich Village

Cityscape - New York New York

Cityscape - street - Christopher Street

Cityscape - weather - snow

Figure(s) in exterior - urban

New Deal - Public Works of Art Project - New York City

painting

paint - oil

fabric - canvas

About Beulah R. Bettersworth

Born: St. Louis, Missouri 1894 Died: 1968