It’s no secret that one of my favorite cities is New York. The “Big Apple” has so many different places to explore. So it was with great joy a few weeks ago that our class had a plein air workshop in Bryant Park. This dynamic city park is situated behind the New York Public Library in midtown Manhattan between 40th and 42nd streets & Fifth and Sixth Avenues.
The workshop was given by my teacher from the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey. She’s a great artist and I love to watch her paint. After two inspiring demos, I couldn’t wait to start my own painting. Although it was a hot summer day, we found a nice spot in the shade on the south side of the park in front of Le Carrousel. We all settled down on a green bistro chair. Between the beautiful plane trees overhead and the pleasant breeze, this has been the most relaxing place to paint so far!
Since this park is a great way to spend a day, I went back this week with Eric-Jan. I picked the same spot to hang out because this time I wanted to create a pastel drawing of Le Carrousel. And while I painted, Eric-Jan enjoyed his day off reading a book.
Sometimes I get really triggered by a scene or a subject, and Le Carrousel is one of these. I think it’s a combination of ingredients that makes this subject interesting to paint or draw. First of all, it has something youthful about it… it’s full of motion, vibrant colors and happiness. Second, it’s situated in a magical green setting. And last but not least, there is a diversity of people who give the space its liveliness—business people who are having working lunches, tourists who are passing by and taking pictures and lucky local school children who are having their recess in the heart of Manhattan.
A Little History
While reading about the early history of Bryant Park I discovered that New York’s first world’s fair of 1853—an Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations—was held in Bryant Park, then named Reservoir Square. Organized just two years after the first world’s fair, The Great Exhibition of 1851. “Inspired by the succes of The Great Exhibition of 1851, held in the famous Crystal Palace exhibition hall in Hyde Park, London, NYC began preparations for a similar exhibit on U.S. soil.” 1
The London Crystal Palace was a significant example of Modern Architecture and was widely imitated in Europe and America. The New York Crystal Palace was built on Reservoir Square, the park just west of the The Croton Distributing Reservoir. This reservoir was built in 1842 and was an above-ground reservoir. It supplied the city with drinking water during the 19th century. The New York Crystal Palace burned down in 1858 and the reservoir was torn in 1900.
Back to painting … My watercolor version was turning into a dark and muddy mess, so I figured I’d switch over to the more controlled medium of pastels. So here it is … my Bryant’s Park inspiration!
- Geschiedenis van de architectuur in de 20e eeuw, Köneman
- Modern Architecture since 1900, William J. R. Curtis