Rooftops, New York City

Edward Franklin Fisk (American, 1886-1944)

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  • Precisely defined shapes and planes of color situate the viewer near a rooftop adjacent to tall buildings. The vertical format of this architectural portrait suggests the early twentieth-century quest for height in the New York cityscape.
  • Rooftops, New York City exemplifies Precisionism, a movement influenced by industrial development featuring subjects such as skyscrapers and factories rendered with the elegant exactness of mechanical forms.
Edward Fisk and the Precisionist Style

Edward Fisk was born in New York City. By his late teens, he had decided to make art his career and he attended classes at the Art Students League in New York. He also studied at the National Academy of Design and trained under Robert Henri. At this time, he met Stuart Davis, who would remain a lifelong friend. Fisk later went to Paris, where he continued his studies at the Académie Moderne. During his year in Paris, he became part of the avant-garde, attending evening gatherings at the home of Gertrude and Leo Stein. Fisk continued his interest in modernism after his return. He often visited Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery, where he saw exhibitions of the most important avant-garde artists. Fisk never achieved the reputation of his colleagues. He taught at the University of Kentucky while trying to gain recognition as a modern artist.

Rooftops is composed of sharp lines, geometric shapes, and flat blocks of color, all of which characterize the formal aesthetic of Precisionism. Precisionism was influenced by industrial development such as skyscrapers and factories. The contrast of light and shadow creates a strikingly dramatic effect in this architectural portrait. This particular subject matter is unusual in Fisk’s oeuvre. Most of his works represent the farms and towns of Kentucky and Vermont.

Sadinsky, Rachel, William G. Sackett. Edward Fisk: American Modernist. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1998.

Object Information

Edward Franklin Fisk (American, 1886-1944)
creation date
about 1916
oil on paper
24 x 18 in. (sheet)
28-1/2 x 22-1/4 in. (framed)
accession number
credit line
Gift of Allethaire Hendricks and Milton Fisk
Public Domain
American Painting and Sculpture to 1945

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