Watch & Listen
Joseph Stella, The Brooklyn Bridge: Variation on an Old Theme | Video in American Sign Language
Educator Lauren Ridloff discusses a work by Joseph Stella in the exhibition Where We Are: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1900–1960.
Stella first saw the Brooklyn Bridge upon his arrival from southern Italy. He fell in love with the bridge and New York City. He even called the city his “wife.” But life in New York City as an immigrant was a struggle. Stella would visit the Brooklyn Bridge to feel a sense of peace and refuge. He was fascinated with the vastness of the bridge. He felt deeply moved, as if “on the threshold of a new religion.” You can feel the movement in this painting. Your eyes are drawn upward. We can understand why Stella felt it was like a religious experience.
The Brooklyn Bridge was one of Stella’s favorite subjects to paint. When one walks along the bridge, they can see the whole city. As well as the top of the bridge. When you are walking, you can’t help but feel the awesomeness of the architectural and engineering achievements it took to develop this city. Stella was one of the first artists to celebrate urban modernity at that time. He combined dynamic lines with modern techniques. We can really see his enthusiasm for America as an immigrant.