New York City is known as a place of icons. Whether its the Empire State Building or Rockefeller Center, each entity brings with it a certain air of history and imagination. That being said, the Brooklyn Bridge has repeatedly attracted the gaze of artists since its inception. Its opening in 1883 was the commencement of a century of interpretive art. Each decade brought with it a new vision of what this bridge represented.
These beautifully rendered engravings, made during the first years of the bridges use, show how it became a life line to the city. Carts, trolleys, and pedestrians on foot filled this suspended highway. Artist’s, such as Charles Graham, worked alongside papers and magazines to capture the life and times surrounding the bridges opening. Through these works, the Brooklyn Bridge became a symbol of modernization and the human spirit. After all, all people must use the bridge!
During the post WW I and II decades, the image of the bridge began to reflect the mood of the city. Lozowick’s lithograph of the bridge shows a bleaker image, with less people on the walkways. It makes a lot of sense, as it was 1930, the beginning of the depression.
Okeefe’s 1949 painting of the arches in the bridge reflects a feeling of doors opening. It had been 4 years since the war’s end and the country was starting to breath again. The tint that she uses to show the suspensions of the bridge through the arches makes it look like the stained glass of a church window. It is very illuminating.
More modern images of the bridge have removed the humanistic influence. Artist’s like Richard Haas and Robert Kobayashi concentrate more on the beauty of its contours, rather then loading it down with symbolism. Either way, the Brooklyn Bridge still holds a special place in the consciousness of this city, and the artists within it.
Image source: http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/research/brooklyn_bridge