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Avery Galleries

Everett Shinn

East River, Morning

Signed lower left: [SH]INN

25 5/8 x 35 3/4 inches (65.1 x 90.8 cm)


Rendered in charcoal, gouache, and pastel, the present work is among Shinn’s largest works on paper (fig. 1). It bears the faint but unmistakable last three capital letters of his signature on the lower left (and a partial view of the H preceding them). Clearly the full signature was once present (and possibly a date). The site of the work is readily recognizable as New York’s East River, due to the presence of the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge at the right and left. It was probably rendered in 1898 due to its close resemblance to a work in gouache and charcoal, Barges on the East River (20 by 27 inches, private collection), which is signed and dated lower left: “Everett Shinn / 1898” (fig. 2). Barges on the East River was shown with the title of East River, Sunset in Shinn’s March 1903 exhibition at Knoedler Gallery, which included a second East River scene: East River, Night. The works were numbers 1 and 2 in the catalogue. A reviewer for the Chicago Record Herald described East River, Sunset:

Commendable and impressive are two descriptions of the East River, one by night, the other by sunset. . . . Less poetic but equally notable is the river at sunset, which is stunning in color. An orange-red light lingers in the sky—the light mirrored in the blackish stream, and saucy tugs puffing black smoke, dart in and out and around schooners, their yellow sails loosened for furling. In the foreground is a packet boat the figures of several musicians on its deck dimly outlined. It is a flotilla of merchandise, a scene familiar to all who live a large city where marine pursuits are important.

The Chicago Record reviewer also described East River, Night, observing that it was a “nocturne in blue and gold . . . made evidently from the deck of a boat” with tall buildings “blossoming like stars in the heavens” in the distance.” It is clear that the present work was not East River Night and no extant work by Shinn can be matched to it. However, Shinn produced a third work in the series, depicting the East River in the morning. This is apparent in his Account Book of Art Work Loaned to Various Exhibitions, 1899–1912 (Archives of American Art), in which he noted on February 1902 that he gave reproduction rights to Harper’s Weekly for three works: “New York Riverfronts—1. Sunset; 2. Morning; 3 Night” (fig. 3). Harper’s seems to have chosen only to reproduce one of the works. The Sunset image appeared in the magazine in July 1902 with the caption “The Soft Coal Nuisance in New York” (fig. 4). This caption was no doubt selected by Harper’s because there is no clear evidence of coal in the work (although the barges at the center of the work could be transporting coal). The image reproduced in Harper’s is more expansive than that in East River, Sunset. The perspective is broader and the skyline lower. On the right side of the work, the tower of the Brooklyn Bridge on the Manhattan side of the river is visible with the Manhattan shore behind it. In the left foreground, the schooner has tighter sails and more of the packet boat is visible, including two rather than one musician. This suggests that either Shinn created a second image of this subject or that at some point, he cut it down and made some changes to it.