Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Erie Underpass

Artist:
Niles Spencer (American, Pawtucket, Rhode Island 1893–1952 Dingman's Ferry, Pennsylvania)
Date:
1949
Medium:
Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
28 x 36 in. (71.1 x 91.4 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Arthur Hoppock Hearn Fund, 1950
Accession Number:
50.31.3
Not on view
Spencer's customary subjects were the industrial edifices of factories, mills, and powerhouses. However, he also displayed a fascination with the interstices and transitional points of cities, such as bridges, rooftops, and the gaps between buildings. Erie Underpass, a late work, was painted while the artist was living in Dingmans Ferry, a town on the Delaware River in Pennsylvania. (The title is a reference to the Erie Railroad, which ran through the region.) Working in an even more rigorous variant of his Precisionist style, he transformed this purely functional structure into a bold visual abstraction. His extreme flattening of its forms results in ambiguous spatial relations between the elements of this structure: the staircase seems disconnected from the platform, and nothing is visible through the dark, arched openings of the underpass.
Inscription: Signed: (lower left) NILES SPENCER
[Downtown Gallery, New York, 1949–50; sold to MMA]

New York. Downtown Gallery. "American Art, 1949: New Paintings and Sculpture by Leading American Artists," October 3–22, 1949, no. 22.

New York. Whitney Museum of American Art. "1949 Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting," December 16, 1949–February 5, 1950, no. 138.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "20th Century Painters: A Special Exhibition of Oils, Water Colors and Drawings Selected from the Collections of American Art in the Metropolitan Museum," June 16–October 29, 1950, unnum. brochure (p. 11).

Minneapolis. University Gallery, University of Minnesota. "40 American Painters, 1940–1950," June 4–August 30, 1951, no. 72.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Three Centuries of American Painting," April 9–October 17, 1965, unnum. checklist.

Southampton, N. Y. Parrish Art Museum. "Twentieth Century American Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 25–December 31, 1977, no. 8.

Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels. "La Peinture Américaine au 20e Siècle de la Collection du Metropolitan Museum of Art," June 28–August 23, 1978, no. 8 (as "Tunnel Sous Le Canal Erie").

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Tribute to a Curator: Robert Beverly Hale," November 16, 1978–March 4, 1979, extended to March 18, 1979, unnum. checklist.

Galerie des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux. "Profil du Metropolitan Museum of Art de New York: de Ramsès à Picasso," May 15–September 1, 1981, no. 228.

Munich. Haus der Kunst. "Amerikanische Malerei 1930-1980," November 14, 1981–January 31, 1982, no. 40.

Robert Beverly Hale. 100 American Painters of the 20th Century: Works Selected from the Collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1950, p. xxii, ill. p. 102.

Holger Cahill. "Niles Spencer." Magazine of Art 45 (November 1952), pp. 314–15, ill.

Dorothy C. Miller in New Art in America: Fifty Painters of the 20th Century. Ed. John I. H. Baur. Greenwich, Conn., 1957, ill. p. 107.

Henry Geldzahler. American Painting in the Twentieth Century. New York, 1965, pp. 140–41, ill.

Helen A. Harrison. Twentieth Century American Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., Parrish Art Museum. Southampton, N. Y., 1977, p. 17, no. 8, ill.

Helen A. Harrison in La Peinture Américaine au 20e Siècle de la Collection du Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels. Brussels, 1978, unpaginated, no. 8, ill., reprints Ref. Harrison 1977.

William S. Lieberman in Profil du Metropolitan Museum of Art de New York: de Ramsès à Picasso. Exh. cat., Galerie des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux. Bordeaux, 1981, pp. 176–77, no. 228, ill.

Lowery S. Sims in Profil du Metropolitan Museum of Art de New York: de Ramsès à Picasso. Exh. cat., Galerie des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux. Bordeaux, 1981, p. 166.



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