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William Charles McNulty

Born: 1889, Ogden, Utah, United States of America
Died: 1963, Gloucester, Massachusetts, United States of America

New York in the Fifties
1931

Drypoint on off-white paper
Plate: 13 1/2 x 7 1/16 in. (34.3 x 17.9 cm)
Sheet: 17 9/16 x 11 7/8 in. (44.6 x 30.2 cm)
Mat: 20 x 16 in. (50.8 x 40.6 cm)
Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1996.39
Signed: In graphite, lower right margin: Wm C. McNulty
Inscribed: In graphite, lower left margin: New York in the Fifties/75 proofs./To my good friends Mr & Mrs Philip Boe--Goetz who loaned me the view; on verso, in graphite, lower right: Mr. and Mrs. P. B. Goetz/Drawn from Nanna & Grandpa's apt/at the Barbizon–Plaza Hotel/W.57th St./LgH
Artist Name: []
Markings: Bottom left corner of sheet: #0513

Interpretation

William C. McNulty's New York in the Fifties offers a dramatic vista of midtown Manhattan glimpsed through a canyon-like space between two shadow-darkened building towers, modern skyscrapers that dwarf older low-rise buildings. This partial view of the street blocks in the Fifties includes, in the background, several not-yet-completed buildings comprising Rockefeller Center, a complex of commercial mid- and high-rise structures. According to an inscription on the back of the print, McNulty took this view from an upper-story south-facing window in the Barbizon Plaza Hotel (the present-day Trump Parc condominium building), located on Central Park South near Avenue of the Americas; the 42-story luxury hotel opened in 1930. McNulty made the most of the delicate lines of the drypoint etching medium to precisely detail the many buildings in view. At the same time, however, he distorted perspective to show the skyscrapers tilting at precarious angles to accentuate their dramatic heights and the plunging void of space below, in a manner similar to Samuel L. Margolies's lithograph view of Manhattan's midtown skyscrapers entitled Man's Canyons (TF 1996.41).

McNulty's command of architectural detail, scale, and perspective in New York in the Fifties reflects training gleaned from his early employment in an architect's office. Although he later worked in newspaper illustration and painting, McNulty was best known for his architectural prints. He specialized in New York City views at a time when the astounding development of the city drew numerous printmakers. During the 1920s and early 1930s, the urban topography of New York City between Twenty-third and Fifty-ninth Streets, in particular, changed dramatically with the construction of many new high-rise buildings.

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Provenance

The artist
Mr. and Mrs. P. B. Goetz
Margo Pollins Schab, Inc., New York, New York
Terra Foundation for the Arts Collection, Chicago, Illinois, 1996

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Exhibition History

Figures and Forms: Selections from the Terra Foundation for the Arts, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, May 9–July 9, 2000.

Paris-New York, aller-retour. Une Modernité américaine en formation, 1875–1940. Oeuvres des collections de la Terra Foundation for the Arts et des Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens (Paris-New York, Roundtrip. American Modernism in the Making, 1875–1940. Works from the Terra Foundation for the Arts and the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, September 15–November 30, 2002. [exh. cat.]

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