Charles Goeller would often have passed the dramatic Manhattan vista looking north from East 19th Street along 3rd Avenue to the soaring Chrysler Building. The artist lived just a few doors east of this corner, yet his rendition of the familiar scene is strangely dreamlike. Like his fellow painters in the precisionist movement, Goeller stressed the clean geometry of the modern city. All elements of his painting direct attention to the rising spire of the Chrysler Building, a vision of an ideal future shaped by American engineering. Such foreground details as trash lying by the curb and scarred red paint where a sign has been removed from a wall seem deliberately introduced to contrast with the flawless edifice in the distance. Trained in engineering and architecture, Goeller crisply rendered the elevated rail tracks and building facades in precisely receding perspective. He neatly situated pedestrians, like the structures around them, to lead the viewer's eye back to where the white and silver tower rises against the blue sky. Goeller perfected the shapes in his painting, even removing the gargoyles from the Chrysler Building itself to avoid breaking its sleek outline.1934: A New Deal for Artists exhibition label
Luce Center Label: Charles Goeller completed several easel paintings while working for the Public Works of Art Project, including this painting of Third Avenue with the Chrysler Building visible in the distance. To enliven the image he included details such as a crumpled newspaper page on the street and a conversation in front of the Laundromat between two New Yorkers, one of whom energetically waves his hands, as if to make a point.
Object number: 1964.1.142
Medium: oil on canvas
Dimensions: 36 x 30 1/8 in. (91.4 x 76.4 cm.)
See more items in: Smithsonian American Art Museum Collection
Department: Painting and Sculpture
Credit Line: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor