William Boell (1832-1880) and Francis Michelin (1809-1878), Broadway, New York, West Side from Fulton Street to Courtland Street
WILLIAM BOELL (1832-1880) and FRANCIS MICHELIN (1809-1878):
Broadway, New York, West Side from Fulton Street to Courtland Street
Published: New York, W. Stephenson & Co., 1856.
Sheet size: 24 x 40 ½”
The present print ranks among the most sought-after views of Broadway in the 19th century. The only other known copy is part of the Metropolitan Museum’s collection of prints and drawings and has been exhibited at the Yeshiva University Museum in 2005. It is reproduced in the Met’s 2001 catalog “Art and the Empire City: New York, 1825-1861”.
The Arader view of “Broadway” is not only a stunning testament to the rise of consumerism and urban development in 19th century America. It is also a demonstration of artistic mastery with its juxtaposition of almost planimetric facades and the deep receding lines of the avenue. Note, for instance, how the lines meet just below the geometric center of the view; Boell and Michelin thus adopt an intermediary perspective that allows them to exacerbate the monumentality of Broadway’s buildings while casting a documentary eye on the traffic and activities in the streets. The latter reflect the status of the rising middle class and shopping as a fashionable pastime which contemporary sources such as “Graham’s American Monthly Magazine” describe in lengthy passages: “Starting in the morning until late in the evening, Broadway and the adjoining streets are crowded with magnificently dressed women and with Americans rushing about on business.” Stores offered an enticing range of wares and Broadway became “to New York what the Boulevard des Italiens is to Paris”. As a social platform it was the setting of “elegancies and richness of fashions (...) and the object of being in the street is that of promenading and meeting friends and acquaintances.” The lithographer William Boell started his career in 1854 and quickly developed partnerships in drawing views of New York and its environs; his technical skills benefited from the rise of lithography and aquatints during the Golden Century of American printmaking and the lessons of pioneering figures such as John Hill and William Bennett are found in his linear aesthetics and the composition of his plates. Boell’s talent also earned him commissions such as a series of illustrations for William Heine’s “Illustration of the Japan Expedition” in 1856 - the same year in which the “Broadway” print was produced. Lit. Caroline Rennolds Milbank: “Ahead of the World: New York Fashion”, in Art and the Empire City: New York, 1825-1861, New York / New Haven 2000
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