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The Art of Jerome Myers
Nov, 22, 2021
The Art of Jerome Myers
Born in 1867 in Virginia, American painter Jerome Myers grew up in what he called “desperate poverty.” His father was largely absent, providing little to no financial support for the family, and when his mother was hospitalized for health concerns, Myers and his siblings spent time in foster care until she recuperated, further upending their home life in ways that would later shape his work.
Myers began painting and sketching at just 11 years old. When his family moved to Baltimore some years later, he used his artistic skills to help his older brother start a sign-painting business. In 1886, the family moved again, this time to New York City, where Myers worked at a theater as a scene painter and enrolled in Cooper Union. The following year, he joined the Art Students League. But it wasn’t until he traveled to Paris to continue his studies that Myers realized his true calling—to return to New York City and document the vibrant, chaotic life of working-class and immigrant neighborhoods.
On his return to the Big Apple, Myers began a long career dedicated to creating empathetic and sentimental city scenes informed by his own childhood experiences. Of these views, Myers once wrote, “Others saw ugliness and degradation there, I saw poetry and beauty.” Throughout his life, he exhibited his paintings and etchings nationally and received numerous awards from institutions like the National Academy of Design and the Carnegie Institute. He passed away in 1940 in New York City.
Myers’ etchings in the PhxArt Collection, a few of which are featured here, depict the simple, commonplace moments of city life that so many of us missed as millions quarantined and isolated throughout the past year and a half of pandemic. As we contemplate these scenes—of a lemon vendor selling their wares, a Mott Street ice-cream man handing out sticky-sweet specialties, and two people resting on a Central Park bench during a quiet moment—we are reminded to never again take for granted our surrounding communities of neighbors and friends, strangers and acquaintances that contribute to the comforting hum our lives.
On behalf of everyone at Phoenix Art Museum, we extend our heartfelt gratitude to our loyal Members and supporters, our generous donors and community partners, our families and our friends, this holiday season and every season.
Jerome Myers, The Lemon Vendor (El vendedor de limones), not dated. Etching. Gift of Mr. Jonathan Marshall.
Jerome Myers, In Madison Square (En Madison Square), not dated. Etching. Gift of Mr. Jonathan Marshall.
Jerome Myers, Lawyer and Client (Abogado y cliente), 1915. Etching. Gift of Mr. Jonathan Marshall.
Jerome Myers, On Mott Street, N.Y.C. (En Mott Street, Cd. de Nueva York), 1915. Etching. Gift of Mr. Jonathan Marshall.