Minerva Teichert’s “Immigrants to New York City”
At the entrance to the new exhibition Becoming America, a large painting welcomes you inside. The image itself is one of welcoming, showing a group of 20th-century immigrants arriving in New York City by boat.
Minerva Teichert painted this ode to America’s immigrants in 1938, inspired by her son’s experience while serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Germany. He told his mother about the abuse of German Jews that he personally witnessed, and her reflections on the mistreatments of these Children of Israel resulted in three large canvases: Queen Esther, They Who Had Taken Us Captive Required of Us a Song (Psalm 137), and Immigrants to New York City. At the time, many American opposed letting immigrants to the United States, and Teichert’s large canvas paintings were a fierce representation of her viewpoint.
Like the European Jews amongst whom her son was living, these immigrants in this painting are in need of a sanctuary. As their ship enters New York Harbor they see not only the modern skyline of America’s largest metropolis, but the towering Statue of Liberty, whose uplifted torch is a beacon to those seeking refuge. This painting serves as a reminder that just as immigrants may become American citizens, America itself is constantly becoming a new nation, refreshed by the culture and talents of immigrants such as these.
See Minerva Teichert’s Immigrants to New York City now in the newly-opened exhibition Becoming America at the BYU Museum of Art.