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Collection Spotlight

Rackstraw Downes, Henry Hudson Bridge Substructure

Rackstraw Downes
Henry Hudson Bridge Substructure, A.M., 2006
Henry Hudson Bridge Substructure, P.M., 2006
oil on canvas
purchased as the gift of the R. C. Kemper Charitable Trust

Painting from direct observation, realist painter Rackstraw Downes records the same location at different times of day in the two oil paintings Henry Hudson Bridge Substructure, A.M. and Henry Hudson Bridge Substructure, P.M. Downes’s diptych is an intense study of changing light and offers a unique perspective of the normally unseen substructure of one of New York City most iconic bridges.

Before he begins a painting, the artist draws on site to determine the most noteworthy view and then returns multiple times to paint when light and weather match the conditions. In a 2006 interview, Downes said “One of the things about landscape is that the weight is usually on the ground. The top of the painting is usually sky, all airy and light, not much solid up there—clouds are fleecy and vaporous. So it interests me to reverse this situation and put the weight on top. One good way to do that is to stand under a bridge.”

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