Third Avenue

  • Charles L. Goeller, Third Avenue, 1934, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor, 1964.1.142

Charles Goeller would often have passed the dramatic Manhattan vista looking north from East 19th Street along 3rd Avenue to the soaring Chrysler Building. The artist lived just a few doors east of this corner, yet his rendition of the familiar scene is strangely dreamlike. Like his fellow painters in the precisionist movement, Goeller stressed the clean geometry of the modern city. All elements of his painting direct attention to the rising spire of the Chrysler Building, a vision of an ideal future shaped by American engineering. Such foreground details as trash lying by the curb and scarred red paint where a sign has been removed from a wall seem deliberately introduced to contrast with the flawless edifice in the distance. Trained in engineering and architecture, Goeller crisply rendered the elevated rail tracks and building facades in precisely receding perspective. He neatly situated pedestrians, like the structures around them, to lead the viewer’s eye back to where the white and silver tower rises against the blue sky. Goeller perfected the shapes in his painting, even removing the gargoyles from the Chrysler Building itself to avoid breaking its sleek outline.

1934: A New Deal for Artists exhibition label

Charles Goeller completed several easel paintings while working for the Public Works of Art Project, including this painting of Third Avenue with the Chrysler Building visible in the distance. To enliven the image he included details such as a crumpled newspaper page on the street and a conversation in front of the Laundromat between two New Yorkers, one of whom energetically waves his hands, as if to make a point.

Third Avenue
Not on view
3630 18 in. (91.476.4 cm.)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor

Mediums Description
oil on canvas
  • Cityscape – street – 3rd Avenue
  • Architecture Exterior – civic – railroad station
  • Architecture Exterior – commercial – skyscraper
  • New Deal – Public Works of Art Project – New York City
  • Cityscape – New York – New York
  • Cityscape – street – East 19th Street
  • Figure group
Object Number
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

More Artworks from the Collection