Art museum exhibition shows life in immigrant neighborhoods in turn-of-the-century New York

From the exhibition, “Jerome Myers: Raising Hope in the New World,” at Auburn University’s Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art.AUBURN UNIVERSITY – Auburn University’s Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art will present a select group of paintings and works on paper starting Feb. 8 that shows life on New York’s Lower East Side during the turn of the century. “Jerome Myers: Raising Hope in the New World” will be on display at the museum through May 4. An illustrated publication with essays accompanies the exhibition.

“In a career that spanned the late 19th and first half of the 20th century, Myers painted the reality he saw in the immigrant neighborhoods on New York’s Lower East Side,” said museum director Marilyn Laufer. “His subjects were children and families dressed in their best clothing at the markets, on stoops or at religious and cultural festivals.”

Considered a peer of urban realists such as Robert Henri, John Sloan and George Luks, Myers’ empathy for his immigrant subjects went against what was the prevalent thought at the time. Myers said “Others saw ugliness and degradation there, I saw poetry and beauty.”

“So much of the political and social climate of the progressive era focused on the sad impoverished conditions of the tenements and the immigrants who lived there,” Laufer said. “But Myers focused on the positive – the hopefulness of the immigrant community he believed was part of the melting pot he saw as modern America. A lot of the progressive rhetoric was how to Americanize these new citizens, but Myers celebrated that difference.”

Laufer noted that the exhibition was timely given views and discussion of immigration today. She said support from donors and museum colleagues prompted research and a reevaluation of Myers at Auburn’s art museum, which includes work by the artist from the permanent collection.

The museum offers special thanks to the late Helen Farr Sloan, widow of artist John Sloan; attorney Jerome K. Grossman; Katherine Degn and Carole Pesner of the Kraushaar Galleries; and Myers’ grandson, Barry Downes. Lenders to the exhibition include the Columbus Museum, Columbus, Ga; Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington; the Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia, Athens; Arkansas Art Center, in Little Rock; and collector Samuel Rosenfeld.

Charitable, tax-deductible gifts in support of the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art or other programs at Auburn are made through the Auburn University Foundation, which receives such gifts on the university’s behalf. Donors, alumni and friends can make a philanthropic gift in support of the museum and future exhibitions like this one by contacting Melaine Bennett, development officer, at (334) 844-7945, or go to http://jcsm.auburn.edu/support/index.html. To learn more about the various means of donating to Auburn University, go to https://develop.auburn.edu/how/. For additional information about the museum’s upcoming exhibitions and programs, go to  www.jcsm.auburn.edu or call (334) 844-1484.

(Contributed by Charlotte Hendrix.)

Contact: Charlotte Hendrix, Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, Auburn University (334) 844-7075 (charlotte.hendrix@auburn.edu), or Mike Clardy, Office of Communications and Marketing, (334) 844-9999 (clardch@auburn.edu)