(b. 1873, Halifax, Nova Scotia, d. 1939, Miami Beach)

Spring Night, Harlem River

Oil on canvas on panel,64 x 76 cm
Phillips Collection, Washington

In 1908, the artists group Ash Can School (or The Eight) announced new bearings in 20th-century American art. Its members concentrated on the unappealing sides of modern urban life. Maurice Prendergast and Ernst Lawson tried to reconcile this subject-matter with a lyrical use of colour derived from Impressionism. Lawson brought a rough and ready brushwork to his urban scenes, the realism of which was in line with Ash Can precepts. He shared the group's taste for views of New York from the East, Harlem and the Hudson River he preferred landscape work to painting contemporary city life.

Lawson used white for accentual highlights, and his compositions were generally fundamentally lyrical in tone, like in the present picture. Lawson's landscapes, which always betray the proximity of the city, derive their power from luminous colour and solid, pastose brushwork.