Thursday, December 10, 2015

Art Consultant's Spotlight: "Carriages on Canal Street" by G. Harvey


The streets of New Orleans are usually warm and muggy. The mighty Mississippi River can generate enough fog to blanket all of downtown and the Central Business District for days at a time. However, in winter the warm humidity is replaced by a wet cold that all Southerners will swear is worse than any blizzard. This chill permeates the skin all the way to the bone, causing most to avoid the outdoors as much as possible during the brief winter.

 In this print, “Carriage on Canal,” G. Harvey depicts a New Orleans gripped by this sort of weather. Harvey chose to depict Canal Street no doubt because it is one of the city’s most recognizable thoroughfares and is an obvious choice for a backdrop which he may adorn with his signature horses, glowing street lamps and people from a bygone era. However, there is significance to choosing Canal Street as the setting of this piece. Canal Street represents the transition from old to new which is another predominant theme in Harvey’s works.  The median on Canal Street is locally referred to as the “neutral ground” and it played a very important role in New Orleans’ history and Americanization.  

At the turn of the nineteenth century Louisiana was a French colony. In 1803 France sold it, along with a large territory, to The United States. Before this time most people in the city lived in the Vieux CarrĂ© (the French Quarter). After the Louisiana Purchase, a multitude of American settlers from all over the country flocked to New Orleans, forever changing its cultural makeup. The Americans populated the uptown area, choosing to live apart from the Creoles and eventually expanded the city.  The two neighborhoods physically met at Canal Street which was named for an artificial waterway that was never realized. However, as time marched on, the median of Canal Street where the lady with the umbrella depicted in Harvey’s print stands waiting for a ride, became known as the neutral ground.  It was a place of commerce and frequented by Americans, Creoles, gens de couleur libres (Free People of Color) and Native Americans, one of the few places where the groups mingled. This division lasted into the twentieth century as more immigrants from other countries came to New Orleans thus increasing the diversity of the population.  In long coats, clutching umbrellas, the people scurry underneath the warm glow of street lamps and storefronts moving from one destination to another, trying to stay dry. They come and go, crossing back and forth over the cultural boundary divide, just as do the carriage, street car and automobile which symbolize the progress and unity of the growing city.  

The woman in the print waits on the neutral ground for a ride, shielded by her umbrella and the thin trees. Approaching is a horse-drawn carriage offering shelter and transportation. The carriage is prominent in the scene while the newer automobile and street cars remain in the background. Harvey has captured a special time in the city’s history. On Canal Street, the carriage remains regal showing that the old ways still work with the modern ones. This is equivalent to the idea that all of the cultures of the city: French Creole, Spanish, Native, Caribbean, African and American can coexist, especially when they have a place to come together and meet.

 It is important to the prosperity of the city for the different groups to come together.  In Harvey’s world as shown on Canal Street, the horse is equal to the automobile, just as the two cultures are intertwined with one another.
 
 
©Gina Martinez, Art Consultant, J.R. Mooney Galleries, Boerne, TX
Please Contact J.R. Mooney Galleries of Fine Art for Availability and Pricing
1 800 537 9609 Toll Free
210 828 8214 San Antonio, TX Location
830 816 5706 Boerne, TX Location

 

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