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Erik Hans Krause (American 1899 – 1990)

Updated: May 11, 2022

New York Skyline, 1928, oil on canvas, 16 x 24 inches, signed and dated lower right


About the Painting

In New York Skyline, we see a masterful, expressionist vision of the rain-soaked city with tenement buildings in the foreground and skyscrapers glowing in the distance. Before arriving in the United States, Krause no doubt was exposed to both schools of German Expressionism, Die Brueke (The Bridge) and Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider). We see that influence here. Characterized by bright colors, simplified forms and strong gestural brush strokes, Expressionism emphasized the artist’s concern for emotions. Eschewing the goal of portraying reality, the Expressionists sought to convey their inner feelings and in response, draw a reaction from the viewer. Expressionism resonated with many artists in America during the early part of the 20th century and it was a commonly practiced style, particularly by progressive or socially concerned artists and those who had spent time in Germany. Here, Krause uses an expressionist vocabulary to portray the city as a pulsating, almost living creature. Despite the absence of figures, the mark of humanity is everywhere from the colorful lights of buildings, cars and streets to the steam rising from countless vents in the distance. The composition of the buildings has an organic quality as their geometry is somehow off kilter and the structures in the foreground seem to float above the streets. Krause draws on these elements to make the city come alive as its own unified being, not unlike the depiction of New York in the 1921 film Manhatta by Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand.

About the Artist

Erik Hans Krause was a multi-faceted WPA artist, teacher, and craftsman. He was born in Halle-Salle, Germany and began his painting career after graduating from the Academy of Decorative Arts and Crafts in Dresden. Following his move to the United States in 1923, Krause initially worked in New York City, where he completed this work. He moved permanently to Rochester, New York in 1932 and beginning in 1936 was employed with the Federal Art Project (a WPA program), supervising ten artists and craftsmen, and designing textiles, posters and other graphics. After his years with the WPA, Krause attained national prominence as a painter of botanical subjects. Exhibitions of his work have been held at the Smithsonian Institution, the National Audubon Society, the United States National Arboretum, and the Rochester Museum and Science Center. His work has been honored by the American Institute of Graphic Arts and by the University of Rochester with its Fairchild Award in 1938. Krause's illustrations have appeared in National Audubon and National Horticultural magazines. Krause taught design and illustration at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Krause is listed in Who was Who in American Art and Mallet’s Index of Artists.


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