Completed in February 1911, New York is a large, ambitious painting in which George Bellows captures the essence of modern life in New York City. Although the viewer looks uptown toward Madison Square from the intersection of Broadway and 23rd Street, Bellows did not intend to represent a specific, identifiable place in the city. He instead drew on several bustling commercial districts to create an imaginary composite, an impossibly crowded image that would best convey a sense of the city’s frenetic pace.
By assembling all of these diverse elements into one scene, Bellows revolutionized the conventions of the traditional American urban vista and surpassed the efforts of other contemporary urban realists, like Robert Henri (American, 1865 - 1929) and John Sloan (American, 1871 - 1951). A critic commented that New York is full of “motion, of stirring existence. Trucks are darting through the crowd. Men and women are hurrying across the streets, trolleys are clanging their way in and out, a policeman is keeping people from being run over, you feel the rush, you hear the noise, and you wish you were safely home.”