Program Details

Painting the Town:  Cityscapes of New York from Colonial Times to the Big Apple

Wes Ervin
Arts & Letters / History
Video Catch-up

Course Description

In the early 17th century, an anonymous Dutch artist drew a landscape scene that depicted a small shoreline settlement with a fort, windmill, and few dozen wooden houses. At first glance, it looks like a typical Dutch seaside village of that era, but the caption reveals that it’s “Nieuw Amsterdam” on an American island that the Lenape Indians called “Manna-hata.” A parade of paintings that document, depict and interpret the 300-year growth of little New Amsterdam into the sprawling Big Apple will be examined. From colonial times on, artists have always seen New York City as a messy but fascinating and hopeful work in progress. Sometimes their paintings are breathtaking in their beauty, sometimes they are disturbing and resonate with the same social and civic problems that are still with us today. Ervin will take you on a visual tour to see the surprising origins of many of New York’s iconic landmarks. Whether or not you are a native New Yorker, this lecture is sure to put you in “a New York State of Mind.” Perhaps you’ll never look at New York City in the same way again.

About the Instructor

  • Wes Ervin, Ph.D., earned his bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in Art History and South Asian Studies from the University of Chicago. He has lived in India and has travelled widely in Asia, Iran, and Europe. He has studied Hindi, Urdu, Farsi and ancient Sanskrit. He has lectured at US universities and conferences in Europe. He is currently serving as a Docent at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach.