Theodore J. Roszak
42nd Street (Times Square), 1936
Oil on canvas
47 x 59 ¼ inches
Signed T. Roszak upper right and lower
right, signed and inscribed T.J.
Roszak/NYC on reverse
While working as an instructor at the Art Institute of Chicago, Roszak was awarded a fellowship to study abroad and departed for Europe in 1929. He traveled to Prague, Paris, Italy, Austria, and Germany, absorbing the full spectrum of European modernism — notably the surrealist works of Giorgio de Chirico. The influence of these progressive developments is evident in Roszak’s subsequent work, from his oil paintings of the 1930s to the constructions and welded sculpture he focused on after 1940.
In 42nd Street (Times Square) Roszak employs a train track swooping through the lower left corner to draw the viewer into the screen on the right of the painting. This pared-down, vacant scene references the surrealist images of de Chirico and acts as a foil to the cubist evocation of Times Square — a skyscraper of overlapping graphic images — looming on the left side of the painting. Here Roszak has removed all evidence of human presence, with the exception of the face of his wife, Florence, appearing amid the buildings of Times Square, emphasizing the sense of isolation and displacement one can experience even in one of the most highly populated places in the world.