Robert Henri’s energetic but stark image of New York in the snow deviates from impressionist urban snow scenes of the period in several ways: it represents a common side street rather than a major avenue; there is nothing narrative, anecdotal, or prettified about the image; the straightforward, one-point perspective composition is devoid of trivial details; the exceptionally daring, textured brushwork resembles a preparatory study rather than a finished oil painting; and the somber palette creates a dark, oppressive atmosphere. In his Record Book, Henri described Snow in New York as, “N.Y. down E. on 55th St. from 6 Ave. Brown houses at 5 Ave. storm effect. snow. wagon to right.”
Having returned to New York City in 1900 following an extended stay in Paris, Henri eventually established a studio and living quarters in the Sherwood Building on the corner of West 57th Street and Sixth Avenue. In March 1902 the dealer William Macbeth encouraged him to paint New York cityscapes for inclusion in a solo exhibition scheduled for the following month. Henri hoped to produce a painting for the occasion that would achieve a degree of critical acclaim comparable to that of La Neige (1899, Louvre, Paris), a snowy view of the rue de Sèvres in Paris that had been purchased for the Musée du Luxembourg in 1899. While a buyer was found for Snow in New York, only one other work sold, prompting Henri to turn his attention primarily to portraiture.