Chrysler Building (Chrysler Building in Construction)
Wood engraving on Japanese paper
Purchased through a gift from the Estate of Russell Cowles, Class of 1909, and by exchange; PR.990.48
Although printmaker Howard Cook traveled extensively, he had a special fascination for the serrated skyline of New York, which he believed to be the most exciting modern city in the world. In this view of the Chrysler Building, Cook’s vantage point accentuates the lofty presence of the skyscraper (shown still under construction, before the addition of its art deco crown) and the sharp-edged profiles of surrounding buildings, creating a complex configuration of stacked rectangular blocks. The glow that radiates from its tower suggests that the building is charged with all of the dynamism associated with the metropolis, but the inward tilting structures, absence of human life, and stark contrast between lights and darks give the work a somewhat menacing edge that contrasts with some of the more celebratory images of urban life by the so-called precisionist artists. The Chrysler Building was an icon of New York and of the art deco style. For a few months the 1,048-foot office tower, designed by William Van Alen, was also the tallest building in the world, until the completion of the Empire State Building in 1931.
Last Updated: 5/6/09