Saturday, February 20, 2016

No snow today but still chilly - 1930s Depression - Central Park in New York City

Carl Gustaf Nelson (American artist, 1898-1988) Central Park, 1934

Neither the cold of winter nor the gloom of the Great Depression kept the children of New York City from enjoying Central Park, the city’s greatest green space. Artist Carl Nelson reported that he had almost as much fun as the children, drawing by the hour despite the chill of February 1934. When his hands got cold, Nelson recalled, he “would go to the monkey house in the Central Park Zoo to warm up.”

Nelson shows the park on a weekday afternoon full of mothers taking their toddlers out to play, while the older children are in school. The southern end of the park, near the elegant hotels in the background, was designed for children. They could romp on the playground, ride the carousel, or play games in the Children’s Cottage. A little girl in an orange coat feeds the squirrels. Nelson’s idyllic image does not include the grimmer reality farther north in Central Park; where homeless people squatted in a shantytown or “Hooverville,” as they waited for better times.

From The Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC