Art of the Brooklyn Bridge
A Visual History
By Richard Haw
Routledge – 2008 – 288 pages
The Brooklyn Bridge is a pre-eminent global icon. It is the world’s most famous and beloved bridge, a "must-see" tourist hotspot, and a vital fact of New York life. For almost a hundred and forty years it has inspired artists of all descriptions, fueling a constant stream of paintings, photographs, lithographs, etchings, advertising copy, movies, and book, magazine, and LP covers. In consequence, the bridge may have the richest visual history of any man-made object, so much so, in fact, that almost no major American artist has failed to pay homage to the span in some form or other. Oddly, however, there are no books currently available that chart and discuss the bridge’s visual history or its role in the development of American (or Western) art. This monograph aims to correct that, providing a full visual record of the bridge from the origins of its conception to the present day. It is a celebration of the bridge’s glorious visual heritage timed to appear when the city will celebrate the span’s 125th birthday.
"Richard Haw's book is an ecstatic ode to the Brooklyn Bridge, which we all know is so much more than its 14,680 tons of wood, stone and steel. It's all in here: the builders and bigwigs, the Roeblings and the riggers, the jumpers and joggers, the painters and poets. Rare images and fascinating text memorialize the odd jumble of characters without whose brains, brawn, and chutzpah the bridge might never have been built. This marvelous book shows why we say Brooklyn is the place where legends are made and dreams come true." -- Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn Borough President
"Art of the Brooklyn Bridge is an elegant structure, which takes you to another shore and along the way offers unparalleled views. Richard Haw's beautiful book is about one of the world's great bridges, but also all about the city that makes it great." -- Russell Shorto, author of The Island at the Center of the World
"Richard Haw's magically illustrated cultural history of the Brooklyn Bridge is a most welcome celebration of one of the greatest engineering achievements of all time. Art of the Brooklyn Bridge is a visual and literary delight." --Henry Petroski, author of Engineers of Dreams and The Toothpick: Technology and Culture
"Richard Haw's Art of the Brooklyn Bridge is irresistible. Delightfully written, it presents a fascinating gallery of characters associated with the Bridge through its history. But the book is much more than that. It is packed with rarely seen and many never published images of the Bridge, from newspaper and magazine engravings, to movie posters, to major paintings and some of the most compelling photographs of the Bridge I have ever seen. Haw is a wonderful story teller and he is blessed with an eye for the humorous as well as the aesthetic. He reveals the Bridge as an icon, muse, and obsession for New Yorkers." -- Thomas Bender, Department of History, New York University
"Richard Haw is our greatest chronicler of the Brooklyn Bridge. He has dug deeper than the usual treatment of the bridge as technological triumph and cultural icon to see it as a psychological fact and witness to changing times, as represented by the stunningly varied artists and photographers drawn to the bridge. This book is also the most compelling compilation of Brooklyn Bridge images I have ever seen." --Francis Morrone, author of An Architectural Guidebook to Brooklyn
"As a package, Art of the Brooklyn Bridge has the manic feel of a lifetime obsession, but it'ss nonetheless engrossing, a magnet to the eye, the kind of book you have to force yourself to put aside. Every few pages there's an arresting image, and of those, at least half a dozen are masterpieces: the impressionist canvases of Childe Hassam; a small, lovely watercolor by John Marin; a cubist drawing by Albert Gleizes; black-and-white photographs by Karl Struss, Walker Evans, Henri Cartier-Bresson and William Gedney; and the magnificent paintings of Joseph Stella, who eventually turned the bridge into a high modernist altarpiece." -- The New York Observer, December 2008
"…in a thoughtful and well-researched analysis of the images through the lens of social, literary, political, and art history, offers an important chronicle of urban realism in American art. Almost every page contains a high quality illustration, and each illustration has a full caption with artist, dimensions, medium, and sources." Choice, December, 2008
"The appealingly anecdote-filled text is supplemented with early newspaper clippings, but the real treat here is the wealth of images Mr. Haw has collected, including 19th-century lithographs and posters, and contemporary photos and paintings of John Roebling's masterpiece." -- Wall Street Journal, December 2008
Prologue: Crank, Crackpot, and Creative Genius: Plans to Bridge the East River (1800-1867) 1 1. Construction, Completion, and Panic (1867-1883) 26 2. Spectacle and Show (1883-1911) 61 3. Modernism Takes Command (1912-1929) 95 4. Depression and Recovery (1929-1945) 122 5. Evolution and Explosion (1946-1982) 153 6. Commemoration and the Contemporary Era (1983-2008) 184
Richard Haw is the author of The Brooklyn Bridge: A Cultural History (2005). He teaches English and Interdisciplinary Studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. A native of Leeds in the U.K., he now lives in Brooklyn, a short walk away from his favorite bridge.