September 16, 2014

Beating the Wrecking Ball

        Here’s a nice small wood block print that pleases me.  I like the way the traditional ornate church is superimposed over the plain grey skyscrapers.  This piece caught my eye today because next week I’ll be attending a wedding in Boston’s Trinity Church, which is famous for its pairing with the modern glass Hancock Tower next door.  Sometimes these pairings of old and new detract from the beauty of both buildings, but sometimes they work well, each accentuating the style of the other.  I think they work well together in this block print, where the grey geometric background enhances and frames the Gothic Revival steeples.  (Though the pairing didn't work well in real life, as you can see in the photo below.)  I have very little information about the print, and still less about the artist, but I assume this was done with two blocks: the grey skyscrapers, and the black church, each with their framing edge.  I’m sorry not to be able to find anything about the artist other than the name “Salter”, or to be able to look up any other work done by him or her.
        On looking for more information, I did find this additional block print of the same church, but with even less information: none at all, to be precise.  No idea when it was made or by whom.  But I don’t find it nearly as interesting, in any case.
        As for the church itself, it was built on Fifth Avenue in New York City from 1869-72, was large, expensive, and highly fashionable, and lasted less than a century before being demolished in 1949 or ’52 to make way for a very unremarkable office building.  This photograph shows much the same view as Salter’s wood block print, if it were cropped.  Given the dates, the block print might have been made to commemorate the building 
before demolition, as the congregation was already in trouble and closing its doors.  Whether that was the artist’s intention or not, I’m glad this print was made in time.

[Pictures: Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas 5th Ave, woodcut by Salter, 1947 (Image from St. Nicholas Center);
unknown block print by unknown artist of unknown date (Image from Andrew Cusack);
Old Church Saved from Sale, photograph by Sam Goldstein 1946 (Image from St Nicholas Center).]

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