Monday, August 10, 2009
Knitting in Highbridge Park
Knitting in Highbridge Park was painted in 1918 by George Luks. Highbridge Park sits on the Manhattan side of the Harlem River separating northern Manhattan from the Bronx up near 155th to 174th Street, the eastern side of Washington Heights. Judging from the looks of these ladies, at this time, this was an affluent neighborhood, and at this time, Highbridge Park was akin to Central Park further south, although no longer.
Luks called the painting Knitting, but it was soon renamed by the art world as Knitting for the Soldiers, with the assumption being that these ladies were knitting woolens for American boys overseas in World War I. There are five women, who all appear to be of different ages, with two white-haired lady and the perhaps the one on the far right the youngest. It is easy to imagine that these ladies are intent on their work and are speaking only occasionally; knitting is first and conversation second. Then there is a boy who also seems to be intently concentrating and may be knitting (I can't tell).
I just noticed that they are huddling outside in the snow! It is cold. Babies are asleep in the carriages, in keeping with the view that fresh air of all temperatures was best for infant lungs. I know that my mother bundled me up in my carriage for naps on the front porch in December.
Whether knitting for soldiers or not, this painting is an homage to women and their work, a tone set by their bowed heads and the humble head tilt of the lady in the center. Patience, diligence, care, endurance, Luks seems to say, are qualities of these women. I suspect he is right.