Art at Auction: John Sloan and Bristol Bricks, 1941

A John Sloan painting recently went through auction at William Bunch Auctions.  John Sloan (1871-1951) was a well-known artist and a founder of the Ashcan School of artists.

https://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/55995867_american-school-20th-c-ob-tol-bricks.

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The painting is oil on board and shows an overcast urban landscape and river view with piles of bricks and rubble in the left foreground.  On the reverse it is entitled [Tol Bricks / N.Y.C.”]

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An internet search for “Tol Bricks” didn’t come up with a match but “Bristol Bricks”  and “New York City” did.

In 1941, empty cargo ships returning to the Port of New York from the United Kingdom carried bomb debris from destroyed buildings in Bristol, England as ballast.  The bricks and concrete were used as landfill to construct East River Drive between 23rd and 34th streets.

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And what became Waterside Plaza (photograph from the 1970s):

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The newspaper photograph and the photo from Waterside Plaza show the Queensboro Bridge and large smoke stacks in the background.

A view that is the same as the painting’s:

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Detail:

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A plaque was laid in 1942 to commemorate the naming of part of the area:

BRISTOL BASIN

BENEATH THIS EAST RIVER
DRIVE OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK
LIE STONES, BRICKS AND RUBBLE
FROM THE BOMBED CITY OF BRISTOL
IN ENGLAND… BROUGHT HERE IN
BALLAST FROM OVERSEAS, THESE
FRAGMENTS THAT WERE ONCE HOMES
SHALL TESTIFY WHILE MEN LOVE
FREEDOM TO THE RESOLUTION AND
FORTITUDE OF THE PEOPLE OF BRITAIN.
THE SAW THEIR HOME STRUCK DOWN
WITHOUT WARNING…. IT WAS NOT
THEIR WALLS BUT THEIR VALOR
THAT KEPT THEM FREE ……

And broad-based under all
Is planted England’s oaken-hearted mood,
As rich in fortitude
As e’er went worldward from the island-wall.

ERECTED BY THE
ENGLISH-SPEAKING UNION OF THE UNITED STATES
** 1942 **

https://read-the-plaque.appspot.com/plaque/bristol-basin

In 1974, Cary Grant, who was from Bristol, rededicated the plaque:

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https://read-the-plaque.appspot.com/plaque/bristol-basin

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