The Brooklyn Bridge: Variation on an Old Theme, 1939
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
For Joseph Stella, as for many of his contemporaries, the Brooklyn Bridge was the central icon of American technological achievement. He first depicted it in 1918 and returned to it throughout his career. He saw the bridge in religious terms, as a “shrine containing all the efforts of the new civilization of AMERICA—the eloquent meeting of all the forces arising in a superb assertion of their powers, in APOTHEOSIS.” Fittingly, he depicted the bridge as a modern-day altar, its soaring cables and pointed Gothic arches reinforced by his palette of blues, reds, and blacks that resemble light filtering through a stained-glass window.