Subway Construction, c. 1928, oil on board, 19 x 15 ¾ inches, signed upper left, artist and title verso; exhibited: 1) 12th Annual Exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists, The Waldorf Astoria, New York NY, from March 9 to April 1, 1928, no. 864 (original price $250) (see Death Prevailing Theme of Artists in Weird Exhibits, The Gazette (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), March 8, 1928); 2) Boston Tercentenary Exhibition Fine Arts and Crafts Exhibition, Horticultural Hall, Boston MA, July, 1930, no. 108 (honorable mention - noted verso); 3) 38th Annual Exhibition of American Art, Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, OH, June, 1931 (see Alexander, Mary, The Week in Art Circles, The Cincinnati Enquirer, June 7, 1931); and 4) National Art Week Exhibition [Group Show], Montross Gallery, New York, New York, December, 1940 (see Devree, Howard, Brief Comment on Some Recently Opened Exhibitions in the Galleries, The New York Times, December 1, 1940)
About the Painting
Ernest Stock’s Subway Construction depicts the excavation of New York’s 8th Avenue line, which was the first completed section of the city-operated Independent Subway System (IND). The groundbreaking ceremony was in 1925, but the line did not open until 1932, placing Stock’s painting in the middle of the construction effort. The 8th Avenue line was primarily constructed using the “cut and cover” method in which the streets above the line were dug up, infrastructure was built from the surface level down, the resulting holes were filled, and the streets reconstructed. While many artists of the 1920s were fascinated with the upward thrust of New York’s exploding skyline as architects and developers sought to erect ever higher buildings, Stock turned his attention to the engineering marvels which were taking place below ground. In Subway Construction, Stock depicts workers removing the earth beneath the street and building scaffolding and other support structures to allow concrete to be poured. Light and shadow fall across the x-shaped grid pattern formed by the wooden beams and planks. It is no surprise that critics reviewing the painting commented on Stock’s use of an “interesting pattern” to form a painting that is “clever and well designed.”
About the Artist
Ernest Richard Stock was an award-winning painter, print maker, muralist, and commercial artist. He was born in Bristol, England and was educated at the prestigious Bristol Grammar School. During World War I, Stock joined the British Royal Air Flying Corps in Canada and served in France as a pilot where he was wounded. After the war, he immigrated to the United States and joined the firm of Mack, Jenny, and Tyler, where he further honed his architectural and decorative painting skills. During the 1920s, Stock often traveled back and forth between the US and Europe. He was twice married, including to the American author, Katherine Anne Porter. Starting in the mid-1920s, Stock began to exhibit his artwork professionally, including at London’s Beaux Arts Gallery, the Society of Independent Artists, the Salons of America, the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Whitney Studio and various locations in the Northeast. Critics often praised the strong design sensibility in Stock’s paintings. Stock was a commercial illustrator for a handful of published books and during World War II, he worked in the Stratford Connecticut design department of United Aircraft’s Sikorsky Aviation Division focusing on helicopters. Stock is listed in Who Was Who in American Art and other standard references.