Cityscape, c. 1932
Oil on board
6 x 7 ½ inches
Signed lower left
While recuperating from polio as a young boy, Francis Criss discovered he had a talent for drawing. He studied at Philadelphia’s Graphic Sketch Club and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts before continuing his training in Europe. In 1926 Criss moved to New York and enrolled in the Art Students League. Criss received his first solo exhibition in 1931 and a year later was included in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s first biennial exhibition. In the 1930s Criss traveled to Europe on a Guggenheim Fellowship and, after returning home, joined the Works Progress Administration. He was one of twelve artists chosen to design murals for the Williamsburg Housing Project in Brooklyn.
The cityscape was pervasive in Criss’s oeuvre. Drawing on the Precisionist style, he viewed the urban landscape as an ordered, immaculate world devoid of any extraneous detail. Cityscape was one of several related paintings completed in the early 1930s. In this geometric composition of an actual Manhattan intersection, a small building in the right foreground lists several businesses, automobiles are parked at the left, and construction continues on the large building in the background. A suspension bridge appears to rise in the distance, although this was an imagined addition to the scene.