Thursday, December 12, 2013

'Across Gowanus Canal': A Painting By Aaron Gelman From 1943

Across Gowanus Canal
by Aaron Gelman

Reader Carey A. came across this wonderful painting by Aaron Gelman of the Gowanus Canal. The oil on canvas work is part of the collection of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. It was painted circa 1943.

According to Wikipedia, Aaron Gelman was born in 1899 to Jewish immigrant parents, lived in Brooklyn, and was part of the New York School of Painting. He passed away in Tel Aviv in 1970.

I am not entirely sure what part of the Gowanus is pictured.  Does anyone have a clue?  Would love to know.

Thanks to Carey for letting us know about this painting.

*****UPDATE****
Both Brian Carr of EPA Region 2 and Eymund Diegel, Gowanus resident and friend independently forwarded me the photo below taken in 1933 from the Brooklyn Puplic Library archive.

Both identified the location as the Metropolitan Gas Plant, where Lowe's and Pathmark stand today.

Eymund writes:
My guess is Aaron was standing on the banks of the Gowanus near Bay Street and Smith Street, looking northeast at the Metropolitan Gas Plant Holding Tank, (now Lowes). He is painting the bridge towers of the old Hamilton Avenue Bridge.

The site he was standing on was the mouth of the now landfilled Red Hook Canal, a shortcut dug by colonial settlers across the Seabring marshes.

Because of WW1 hysteria, the adjacent Vienna Street was renamed Lorraine Street (after French Alsace Lorraine). You can see a piece of carved stone "war ballast" dug out from the spot where Aaron painted at the Hall of the Gowanus (543 Union Street). Such rubble from bombed WWII British cities was used to build up the City's shoreline.

Image courtesy of Brooklyn Public Library 




9 comments:

pascack oblate said...

Looks like the Third Street Bridge, looking southwest towards the gas tanks at the Public Place lot. You can see the area in a 1951 aerial view on this map from the City: http://maps.nyc.gov/doitt/nycitymap/?z=8&p=986187,185561&c=GIS1951

Jim Kenna said...

It was probably a view across the 9th Street bridge looking at the gas holding tank at the Smith and Fifth Street gas house site.

Katia said...

Those were my guesses, too. The gas tank certainly would indicate Public Place.
Thanks for the link to the lovely old photo, Pascack.

Does anyone know more about the artist?

Anonymous said...

That's the oil silo right near the Carroll Street Bridge that once housed Issue Project Room, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Just for the heck of it, that looks like a retractable bridge. There is only one, Carroll Street.

Eymund said...

My guess is Aaron was standing on the banks of the Gowanus near Bay Street and Smith Street, looking northeast at the Metropolitan Gas Plant Holding Tank, (now Lowes). He is painting the bridge towers of the old Hamilton Avenue Bridge.

You can see a 1933 photo of the distinctive bridge towers here: http://www.bklynpubliclibrary.org/slideshows/gowanus_canal/index599e.html?topicid=5

The site he was standing on was the mouth of the now landfilled Red Hook Canal, a shortcut dug by colonial settlers across the Seabring marshes.

Because of WW1 hysteria, the adjacent Vienna Street was renamed Lorraine Street (after French Alsace Lorraine). You can see a piece of carved stone "war ballast" dug out from the spot where Aaron painted at the Hall of the Gowanus (543 Union Street). Such rubble from bombed WWII British cities was used to build up the City's shoreline.

Katia said...

Hi Eymund,
Brian Carr of EPA Region 2 forwarded the same image. Thanks to both of you.
I should have gone to both of you in the first place.

Interesting fact behind the changing of the street names.

I'll stop by the Hall of the Gowanus to take a look at the piece of carved stone as soon as it gets a wee bit warmer.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I'm not seeing it from the picture you posted. My guess is he is standing on the west bank of the Gowanus just north of Caroll Street, looking south. He's below street level, and that's Carroll Street & the Carroll Street Bridge right in front of him. He is below street level.

Katia said...

I think the most identifying feature in both the painting and the photo is the guard house with the tiled roof.
The view is not exactly the same, but the little house identifies the bridge as the old Hamilton Avenue Bridge which must have stood where the BQE is now.