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

Brooklyn Bridge

1919–20

Oil on canvas

84 3/4 × 76 5/8 in. (215.3 × 194.6 cm)
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.
Geography: 
Depicted Brooklyn, New York
Depicted New York, New York
Made in United States
Status: 
On view
Culture: 
American
Period: 
20th century
Classification: 
Paintings
Provenance: 

Bourgeois Galleries, New York, by 1920; sold to Katharine Sophie Dreier (1877–1952), New York, 1920; transferred to the Société Anonyme, New York, by 1941; given to the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., 1941

Bibliography: 

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

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.

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

Dennis Barone, ed., New Hungers for Old: One-Hundred Years of Italian-American Poetry (Scottsdale, Ariz: Star Cloud Press, 2011), cover ill.

“Looking to Learn, Learning to Teach,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2013): 46, fig. 7.

Rachel Barnes et al., The 20th Century Art Book (London: Phaidon Press, 1996), 443, ill.

Rainer Maria Rilke et al., Sunlight on the River: Poems about Paintings, Paintings about Poems, ed. Scott Gutterman (New York: Prestel-Verlag, 2015), 77, ill.

Sarah Kate Gillespie et al., Icon of Modernism, exh. cat. (Athens: University of Georgia, 2016), 74, fig. 1.

Sarah D. Coffin, Stephen Harrison, and Emily M. Orr, The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s, exh. cat. (Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Art, 2017), 253, 363, no. 345, fig. 309.

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

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.