The Narrows from Staten Island
Oil on canvas
48 1/2 x 72 1/8 in.
l.r. signed and dated : J. F. Cropsey \ 1868
wooden nameplate originally attached to painting: The Narrows from Staten Island/ - J. F. Cropsey 1868
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Acquisition in memory of Richard Fargo Brown, Trustee, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, 1961-1972
In the years following the Civil War, the rural solitude of Cropsey’s native Staten Island gave way to rapid urban growth. At that time, the partially developed setting of the island remained a popular retreat for landscape painters, who regarded the view across the Narrows, the entrance to New York Harbor, as one of the most scenic vistas in the United States.
In this large-scale painting, Cropsey presents a lively parade of ships moving through the Narrows. An artist, possibly Cropsey himself, can be seen painting in the lower left amid a small group of onlookers. Some critics objected to Cropsey’s meticulously detailed rendering, feeling that it lacked compositional unity. But perhaps he hoped to convey more than scenic grandeur. The smokestack in the lower left is from a local munitions factory—a patriotic reminder of New York’s contributions to the Union war effort.
—Text taken from the Carter Handbook (2023).
This large landscape was painted by artist Jasper Francis Cropsey in 1868 from Staten Island, New York. In the foreground are lush bushes along the edges of the canvas. Grass and dirt span from one side of the painting to another, broken up by several different-sized rocks and a brown and white cow in the middle. To the left of the cow are a group of people.
A man and woman observe an artist who is sitting on a stool, painting on an easel. A child stands to the right of his painting, looking at the canvas. The artist, with his back to us, is painting a man and woman in fancy clothing that pose right in front of him, looking out toward us. Behind these people, the land gently roll downs to lower elevations and eventually evens out with the water that cuts through the land.
On the side of land closest to us, there are areas of dense forest broken up by clearings of land. Some of these breaks in vegetation are empty countryside, while other areas have clusters of buildings, indicating a settled town. Scanning from left to right, you’ll see the center of the town, a tall, brick shot tower, a military fort, a hospital for sailors, a manor for the family of sailors, and other brick buildings that aren’t specifically identified. The body of water that separates the side the view is on and the other piece of land, is filled with many different types of sail and commercial boats. These boats are coming to and from the New York Bay.
On the other side of the water, the side farthest from us, is Brooklyn, New York. There are some flecks of white and light colors among the shore line, suggesting buildings and some type of activity.
At the horizon line, white clouds meet the land and sea. The top half of the canvas is filled with white, fluffy clouds that break up to soft blue sky. There is a part of a rainbow arch on the left side of sky that reaches outside of the canvas.