PAINTING BY ROGER F. PASQUIER '69
— Rose Kernochan BC’82
I have spent much of my life in Central Park, first as an infant in a perambulator, then as a child climbing on the rock outcrops and roller skating around the Conservatory Water, later exploring the Ramble when I was old enough to be allowed to go alone, and watching birds throughout the park ever since my early teens. Having studied art history in college and graduate school, I have long wanted to explore Central Park through the lens of art. But I first thought seriously of the possibilities during the few years I lived far from it, in Washington, D.C. There, nothing made me more homesick than looking at George Bellows’s Bethesda Fountai at the Hirshhorn Museum. When I finally found the time to take up the subject, I first wondered whether there were in fact enough really good paintings of the park, by enough artists, throughout the years since the park was created in the 1860s. To my happy amazement, I rapidly found more than eighty well-known painters who have depicted Central Park. (And what fun it was to discover their depictions of the stages of my own park life — as an infant with a nursemaid, as a child climbing the rocks and watching the model boats on the Conservatory Water, even as a birdwatcher.)
Not all of the painters I found are included here — some, in fact, did much better work elsewhere — and I have featured some less familiar artists whose paintings have historic value documenting the park’s evolving landscape and popular activities. I took photocopies of many paintings into Central Park, in the hope of finding precisely where the artists stood. I enjoyed thinking of myself as following, on a small scale, the advice of the author of The Oregon Trail, Francis Parkman, who said that the historian must always see firsthand the places in his narrative. I was surprised at how often I could quite literally put myself in the painter’s place. And I enjoyed discovering how some artists deliberately rearranged pieces of the landscape for their own expressive purposes.
The whole process of searching for the artists, their paintings, and the places they painted, and then looking for the broader patterns or historic interest the paintings may reveal, has given me a new appreciation for the park I thought I knew so well.
From Painting Central Park by Roger F. Pasquier (c) 2015. Used with permission of The Vendome Press.
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