A COMPASSIONATE EYE ON NEW YORK CITY

By Lisa Sopher

Published September 12, 2003, issue of September 12, 2003.

Alexander Kruse painted portraits of the neighborhoods in which he lived, beginning with Manhattan’s Lower East Side and continuing with Coney Island, Fire Island and Pawling, N.Y.

Some 36 of his paintings, drawings and prints are now on view in “Alexander Kruse (1888-1972)” at the Educational Alliance, where the artist studied from 1900 to 1904 before attending the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League.

Kruse was influenced by the Eight, a group of Ashcan artists that included Maurice Prendergast and John Sloan. Considering many traditional standards of beauty to be elitist and ill-suited for expressing modern urban life, they turned to other visual traditions, including illustration.

Kruse’s style used distorted proportions, atypical perspectives and strong emphasis on line. Unlike his mentors, however, Kruse focused more on the character of New York City’s people and landscape than on its crowds and dire social conditions. Having grown up listening to the words of socialists and labor activists, including his father’s co-worker, Samuel Gompers, who founded the American Federation of Labor, Kruse created a number of images glorifying the laborer and showing compassion for the poor. Kruse also served as the art editor of New Masses, a leftist journal, and was an art critic for the Brooklyn Eagle newspaper. At an opening reception, Kruse’s grandson Steve Kruse and his wife, Penny Thompson Kruse, perform on viola and violin.

The Educational Alliance, The Ernest Rubenstein Gallery, 197 East Broadway; reception Sept. 21, 2 p.m.-5 p.m.; exhibit Sept. 21-Nov. 7, Mon.-Thu. 9 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri. and Sun. 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; free. (212-780-2300, ext. 378 or www.edalliance.org/artschool)



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