<p>This four-foot-tall, two-and-a-half foot wide oil painting places us inside a streamlined suspension bridge, looking from one end to the other. The perfectly centered perspective and the bridge’s structure make the painting nearly symmetrical. Thick, smooth, cables swoop in from the lower edges of the canvas as they arch up toward the center. Off of the cables hang thin black wires that stretch down toward the bottom of the painting. On either side of the center are gothic archways, through which shiny silver towers and a blue sky can be found. Framing the bottom of the painting is a horizontal black bar, adorned with a row of seven glowing circles. A matching circle, which is split in two by the vertical line between the archways, hangs two-thirds of the way up the canvas.</p>
Joseph Stella
Bridge, 1936

The theme of the industrial and technological power of the United States, embodied in the engineering masterwork of the Brooklyn Bridge, was one that Stella explored repeatedly.

The overall composition of Bridge calls to mind an altarpiece. Massive cables arc upward, and we glimpse indistinct city skyscrapers through the archways. Framing the bottom of the painting (like a predella, the base of an altar) are black, gray, electric-blue, and luminous yellow circles representing subways — the veins and arteries that connect the inhabitants of New York’s vast landscape.

Stella became associated with the Italian futurists, who celebrated modern technology and the power of speed and energy, during a three-year span in Europe. It had a profound effect upon his painting. When he returned to the United States in 1912 he began to paint large canvases of the New York cityscape infused with light, color, and motion. Over the remainder of his artistic career Stella oscillated among several different working methods, but he is remembered primarily for his futurist works such as Bridge.

Artwork Info

Artwork title
Bridge
Artist name
Joseph Stella
Date created
1936
Classification
painting
Medium
oil on canvas
Dimensions
50 1/8 in. x 30 1/8 in. (127.32 cm x 76.52 cm)
Credit
Collection SFMOMA
The United States General Services Administration, formerly Federal Works Agency, Works Projects Administration, allocated to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Permanent URL
https://www.sfmoma.org/artwork/3760.43
Artwork Status
On view on floor 2 as part of Open Ended: Painting and Sculpture, 1900 to Now.

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