American Paintings and Sculpture
Artist: Joseph Stella, American, born Italy, 1877–1946

Brooklyn Bridge

1919–20

Oil on canvas

215.3 x 194.6 cm (84 3/4 x 76 5/8 in.)
Gift of Collection Société Anonyme
1941.690
Brooklyn Bridge is Joseph Stella’s best-known and most moving testimonial to the power and majesty of America’s modern industrial landscape. His fascination with the bridge began with his first sight of it shortly after his arrival in America in 1896 from his native Italy. He described it as the shrine containing all the efforts of the new civilization of America. It was not until moving to Brooklyn and actually living in the bridge’s shadow that he committed his feelings to canvas: “Many nights I stood on the bridge—and in the middle alone— lost—a defenseless prey to the surrounding swarming darkness—crushed by the mountainous black impenetrability of the skyscrapers—here and there lights resembling suspended falls of astral bodies or fantastic splendors of remote rites—shaken by the underground tumult of the trains in perpetual motion, like blood in the arteries—at times, ringing as alarm in a tempest, the shrill sulphurous voice of the trolley wires—now and then strange moanings of appeal from tugboats, guessed more than seen, through the infernal recesses below—I felt deeply moved, as if on the threshold of a new religion or in the presence of a new DIVINITY.” Stella returned to the subject of the bridge many times throughout his career.
Culture: 
American
Period: 
20th century
Classification: 
Paintings
Status: 
On view
Bibliography: 

Alan Shestack, ed., Yale University Art Gallery Selections (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1983), 76–77, ill.

Artists on Art: Observations by Yale Faculty on Selections from the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1999), 22–25, ill.

Ruth L. Bohan et al., The Socité Anonyme: Modernism for America, ed. Jennifer Gross, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2006), 17, fig. 1.

Art for Yale: Collecting for a New Century, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2007), 401, fig. 1.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.

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