Joseph Stella, The Brooklyn Bridge: Variation on an Old Theme, 1939
NARRATOR: Artist Joseph Stella first saw the Brooklyn Bridge when he arrived in New York from a small town in southern Italy. He was struck by the technological wonders of the city. The bridge was an iconic symbol of the possibilities of the new world—simultaneously grand and frightening. Many nights, Stella visited the vast expanse of the bridge’s walkway. He later wrote, "I felt deeply moved, as if on the threshold of a new religion."
Henri Petroski is the Aleksandar S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering at Duke University:
HENRI PETROSKI: The cables that dominate this picture are the suspension cables...The Brooklyn Bridge was really a ground-breaking suspension bridge. It was designed by John Roebling, the civil engineer who wanted to connect Brooklyn and New York, which were then separate cities across the East River.
Stella's perspective is essentially the impression you get as you walk along the bridge. The...elevated walkway is...is cradled in these cables, so you’re caught in this net of cables and wires and it’s really a very spectacular setting.
The Brooklyn Bridge walkway provides one of the classic walks in the world. To walk across the bridge and to approach Manhattan at a...walking pace is...something that is hard to reproduce anywhere else. It. . .gives you ample time to reflect upon the magnitude of the city, the achievements...of the engineers and architects...who made the city what it is...The people walking on the walkway coming towards you, walking with you, also remind you of…the real diversity of the city. It’s...just a spectacular, spectacular experience.
Joseph Stella (1877–1946), <em>The Brooklyn Bridge: Variation on an Old Theme</em>, 1939. Oil on canvas. 70 1/4 × 42 3/16 in. (178.4 × 107.2 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase 42.15 © artist or artist’s estate