The holdings of the New-York Historical Society Library are vast and fascinating. It is always fun to open a box of photos or unroll a set of drawings to discover something new. Recently, a researcher was working with the Printmaker File (PR 58), a collection of aquatints, engravings, etchings, lithographs, and woodcuts, representing work by over 200 artists dating from 1730 to the present. That’s how the delightful etchings of Albert E. Flanagan caught my eye.
Flanagan was born in Newark in 1884. He graduated from Columbia University’s School of Architecture in 1910 and worked at several firms over the course of his career, including McKim, Mead & White. He taught at Columbia and was one of the original members of the Society of American Etchers. His work is in the collections of several other museums and libraries, including the Metropolitan Museum and the Library of Congress. He died in New York City in 1969.
The detail in Flanagan’s etchings is what is most appealing. It is interesting to consider the time at which they were made, during what many have since referred to as a ten-year hangover from the Roaring ’20s. Though they depict a busy city in the throes of a financial crisis, a city subject to all manner of Modernist movements, and one on the brink of another war, there is a quiet aspect to them that suggests tranquility — a calm response to chaos.
This post is by Jill Reichenbach, Reference Librarian, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections.