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.

1 comment:

C. C. said...

Wonderful post! There is nothing like those paintings to make you glad for your steam iron and to think that maybe you don't have it quite so bad! (I dislike ironing, however, the only thing I iron any more are my quilt blocks!)

I found your "Housekeeping in India" post interesting, too. Again, I think we complain too freely about how hard it is to wash "ALL" of our dishes in hot, soapy, clean, running water! How we carry on about our conveniences! Bless their hearts! I sometimes wonder how it really would be to live in a little room with cardboard walls and CLOSE neighbors and the utter stench of the poverty in the very alleys outside your door. It certainly puts our difficulties and never-ending wants into perspective.

Have a good week!

C. C.