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By the 20th century, most artists were interested in painting scenes of every day life.

Many works from the MOA’s American collection show the subways, boats, parks, and other areas of New York City. This metropolis had already come to the forefront of the American art scene by the mid-nineteenth century, but following the exodus of many artists and intellectuals from Europe after World War II, it became the global center of art production. Compare and contrast the various views of New York City presented in Faith Ringgold’s Subway Graffiti #3, Julian Joseph’s Subway Scene, Minerva Teichert’s Immigrants to New York City (Jewish Refugees), Mahonri Young’s The Promised Land, and Norman Rockwell’s Lift Up Thine Eyes.

Faith Ringgold (b. 1930) Subway Graffiti #3

Gift of Curtis and Mary Ann Atkisson, Sam and Diane Stewart, Jack and Mary Lois Wheatley, Stephen and Martha West, David and Bianca Lisonbee, Craig and Marilyn Faulkner


Minerva Teichert (1888–1976) Immigrants to New York City (Jewish Refugees)


Mahonri M. Young (1877–1957) The Promised Land

Purchase/gift of Mahonri M. Young Estate


Hidden image


While Minerva Teichert’s Immigrants to New York City (Jewish Refugees) appears to valorize and encourage the American dream, others such as Mahonri Young’s The Promised Land and Norman Rockwell’s Lift Up Thine Eyes have a less optimistic view of the opportunities and values embraced by American society at this time.

Both Faith Ringgold’s Subway Graffiti #3 and Norman Rockwell’s Lift Up Thine Eyes feature large crowds, but Ringgold’s quilt attempts to individualize and heroicize these figures while Rockwell treats them as a group en masse and critique’s the group’s behavior.

Both Julian Joseph’s Subway Scene and Faith Ringgold’s Subway Graffiti #3 react to the growing presence of the underground transportation system vital to 20th-century urbanization.