Welcome

Welcome to “The Constantly Changing Light,” an art exhibition inspired by themes in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. These pieces, primarily early 20th century American works, are presented in chronological order. All are paintings, except for a photograph which provides a different perspective on one painting’s subject. Selections from the text of The Great Gatsby are presented alongside each piece of art. The notes in this catalog consider the artwork and accompanying text together, reading each ‘unit’ of image and words with a cross-disciplinary vocabulary and select outside references.

The focus of the exhibition is differences in perspective. These play out between characters in The Great Gatsby, between Fitzgerald and the artists on display, between different artists, and even competing perspectives within the same reader. It was a challenge to focus on just one issue in such a multifaceted text, but several associated themes are also present in the ensuing discussions on perspective. These include labor, nostalgia, violence, identity, masculinity, narrative, modernity, gendering, and color symbolism. These many specific issues of perspective emphasize the complexity of Fitzgerald’s work, and encourage readers to push beyond the poetic surface of the text.

The Gallery urges visitors to use this catalog as a starting point for re-experiencing Fitzgerald’s classic text through each of these pieces. Consider the exhibit as a whole, the four decades it spans, and the progress of styles and subjects. Read the textual selections printed next to each work (and in this catalog!), and note important features like color, style, and point of view in both mediums. Look up these selections in your copy of The Great Gatsby to get a better sense of their context. Forgot yours at home? Limited-edition copies are available in the gift shop.

Our team of literary scholars, art historians, and curators hopes that Gatsby enthusiasts and casual consumers of culture alike will find something to love in this exciting new exhibition, presented to you by The Gallery.

“Dolphin Bay”William de Leftwich Dodge, ca. 1915

“A wafer of a moon was shining over Gatsby’s house, making the night fine as before, and surviving the laughter and the sound of his still glowing garden. A sudden emptiness seemed to flow now from the windows and the great doors…” (55)
Unadorned with lights or people, Gatsby’s house appears almost spectral in the fading light. Nick’s first glimpse of Gatsby is at such a moment, when Gatsby is alone at the shore, regarding a view similar to the one Dodge depicts here. The lights, people, and commotion are what make his house seem otherworldly and carnival-like; stripped of these trappings, the home appears empty and somewhat haunting. The view from the back garden is rendered here much more clearly than in “Across the Salt Marshes,” presented without the hazy green filter of Gatsby’s single-minded desire for Daisy.
This painting also combines the gold/orange and blue/green color schemes, a figurative melding of Daisy’s and Gatsby’s worlds. “Dolphin Bay” is a sort of compromise between the romantic figuring of “Fish Pond” and the blurred gaze of “Across the Salt Marshes” Its color scheme and elegant lines make for a beautiful picture, but its strange emptiness and iridescent light add tension to the painting. Fitzgerald also tends to complicate otherwise unilaterally beautiful scenes: no discussions occur without unspoken tensions; Nick analyzes and reads into everything as a narrator; and colors always hold symbolic as well as visual potency.

“Dolphin Bay”
William de Leftwich Dodge, ca. 1915


“A wafer of a moon was shining over Gatsby’s house, making the night fine as before, and surviving the laughter and the sound of his still glowing garden. A sudden emptiness seemed to flow now from the windows and the great doors…” (55)

Unadorned with lights or people, Gatsby’s house appears almost spectral in the fading light. Nick’s first glimpse of Gatsby is at such a moment, when Gatsby is alone at the shore, regarding a view similar to the one Dodge depicts here. The lights, people, and commotion are what make his house seem otherworldly and carnival-like; stripped of these trappings, the home appears empty and somewhat haunting. The view from the back garden is rendered here much more clearly than in “Across the Salt Marshes,” presented without the hazy green filter of Gatsby’s single-minded desire for Daisy.

This painting also combines the gold/orange and blue/green color schemes, a figurative melding of Daisy’s and Gatsby’s worlds. “Dolphin Bay” is a sort of compromise between the romantic figuring of “Fish Pond” and the blurred gaze of “Across the Salt Marshes” Its color scheme and elegant lines make for a beautiful picture, but its strange emptiness and iridescent light add tension to the painting. Fitzgerald also tends to complicate otherwise unilaterally beautiful scenes: no discussions occur without unspoken tensions; Nick analyzes and reads into everything as a narrator; and colors always hold symbolic as well as visual potency.

“Across the Salt Marshes, Huntington”Eduard Steichen, ca. 1905

“’It was a strange coincidence,’ I said. ‘But it wasn’t a coincidence at all.’ ‘Why not?’'Gatsby bought that house so that Daisy would be just across the bay.'” (78)
“’If it wasn’t for the mist we could see your home across the bay,’ said Gatsby. ‘You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock.’” (92)

Steichen’s 1905 landscape is a hazy take on the North Shore salt marshes, rendered dreamlike with blurred edges, wavering tree trunks, and muted colors. The painting has a physical effect on viewers, encouraging the eyes to unfocus and the gaze to drift. Vision is often manipulated and obstructed in The Great Gatsby, representing physical manifestations of interpersonal misunderstandings. This painting could well be Gatsby’s view across the bay from his garden, and the green color palette invites comparison to Daisy’s green dock light. The way Gatsby regards this view is blurred like the painting. He sees the water separating him from Daisy as an opportunity for reconnecting, a potentially fruitful space which bridges their symbolic distance. However, in reality, the water constitutes that very distance! The water is not a potential solution, but the problem itself―at least as far as geography is concerned.
Another instance of obscured vision is the “valley of ashes,” where one does not see but “perceive” (23). All color is sucked out of the landscape, rendering it monochromatically gray. This is a space where not just vision but morality blurs at the edges, leaving characters to operate in a ‘gray area’ of behavior as well as color. Tom and Myrtle, for example, choose at the garage to go continue their affair. Though they have a space in Manhattan to actually transgress their marital boundaries, their affair is rendered most desirous in the valley. In Manhattan, Myrtle acts strangely around their company and Tom lashes out at her physically. But in the hazy and obscured valley, their desire is its most potent, unspoken and restrained. The valley also sees Daisy’s manslaughter and choice to flee the scene. Her car “waver[s]” after striking Myrtle’s body, at which point Daisy could abide by moral and legal codes and stop her car (137). Instead, she drives away, a questionable decision following a suspicious accident in the valley of ashes.
Instances of clear sight are rare in the text, standing out against so much obscurity and filtration. The disembodied eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg, for example, pierce through their surroundings. Catching sight of them sparks moments of mental clarity for the characters. Nick remembers Gatsby’s warning about gas when he sees the eyes from Tom’s car; again catching sight of them at the gas station, he realizes Myrtle’s mistaken assumption that Jordan is Tom’s wife (122, 124). Michaelis, in the middle of a discussion with Wilson about God’s omniscience, starts when Eckleburg’s eyes emerge from the “dissolving night” to stare into his own (159-160). These flashes of clarity punctuate the many sustained misinterpretations of the physical landscape, including Gatsby’s obscured view of Daisy’s dock. Steichen’s painting raises these concerns for viewers, as well as giving the exhibition a dose of the textually significant color green.

“Across the Salt Marshes, Huntington”
Eduard Steichen, ca. 1905

“’It was a strange coincidence,’ I said.
‘But it wasn’t a coincidence at all.’
‘Why not?’
'Gatsby bought that house so that Daisy would be just across the bay.'” (78)

“’If it wasn’t for the mist we could see your home across the bay,’ said Gatsby. ‘You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock.’” (92)

Steichen’s 1905 landscape is a hazy take on the North Shore salt marshes, rendered dreamlike with blurred edges, wavering tree trunks, and muted colors. The painting has a physical effect on viewers, encouraging the eyes to unfocus and the gaze to drift. Vision is often manipulated and obstructed in The Great Gatsby, representing physical manifestations of interpersonal misunderstandings. This painting could well be Gatsby’s view across the bay from his garden, and the green color palette invites comparison to Daisy’s green dock light. The way Gatsby regards this view is blurred like the painting. He sees the water separating him from Daisy as an opportunity for reconnecting, a potentially fruitful space which bridges their symbolic distance. However, in reality, the water constitutes that very distance! The water is not a potential solution, but the problem itself―at least as far as geography is concerned.

Another instance of obscured vision is the “valley of ashes,” where one does not see but “perceive” (23). All color is sucked out of the landscape, rendering it monochromatically gray. This is a space where not just vision but morality blurs at the edges, leaving characters to operate in a ‘gray area’ of behavior as well as color. Tom and Myrtle, for example, choose at the garage to go continue their affair. Though they have a space in Manhattan to actually transgress their marital boundaries, their affair is rendered most desirous in the valley. In Manhattan, Myrtle acts strangely around their company and Tom lashes out at her physically. But in the hazy and obscured valley, their desire is its most potent, unspoken and restrained. The valley also sees Daisy’s manslaughter and choice to flee the scene. Her car “waver[s]” after striking Myrtle’s body, at which point Daisy could abide by moral and legal codes and stop her car (137). Instead, she drives away, a questionable decision following a suspicious accident in the valley of ashes.

Instances of clear sight are rare in the text, standing out against so much obscurity and filtration. The disembodied eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg, for example, pierce through their surroundings. Catching sight of them sparks moments of mental clarity for the characters. Nick remembers Gatsby’s warning about gas when he sees the eyes from Tom’s car; again catching sight of them at the gas station, he realizes Myrtle’s mistaken assumption that Jordan is Tom’s wife (122, 124). Michaelis, in the middle of a discussion with Wilson about God’s omniscience, starts when Eckleburg’s eyes emerge from the “dissolving night” to stare into his own (159-160). These flashes of clarity punctuate the many sustained misinterpretations of the physical landscape, including Gatsby’s obscured view of Daisy’s dock. Steichen’s painting raises these concerns for viewers, as well as giving the exhibition a dose of the textually significant color green.

“Across the Salt Marshes, Huntington”Eduard Steichen, ca. 1905

“The rain was still falling, but the darkness had parted in the west, and there was a pink and golden billow of foamy clouds above the sea.” (94)
“For over a year he had been beating his way along the south shore of Lake Superior as a clam-digger and salmon-fisher or in any other capacity that brought him food and bed. His brown, hardening body lived naturally through the half-fierce, half-lazy work of the bracing days.” (98)
“Fish Pond, Orient Bay, Long Island” introduces viewers to several important textual themes, including nostalgia, productivity, and marine activity. Moran’s depiction of Long Island seems historical as well as nostalgic. It shows a romantic and bustling seascape, proud sails and strong male bodies punctuating the horizon. This vision of Long Island as a sailor’s and fisherman’s haven among a beautiful natural landscape fades as the twentieth century marches onward. The raucous, boozy, automobile-laden Long Island which the novel occupies does not much resemble Moran’s, but older versions of familiar landscapes resurface again and again in the novel. Nick’s romanticized view of Gatsby, Gatsby’s own obsession with his youthful love, Daisy’s sudden recollections of childhood memories―everyone clings to nostalgia, “borne back ceaselessly into the past” as the modern marches forward (180). It is therefore useful to understand what that past looks and feels like with works such as Moran’s. This particular painting also relies heavily on the gold hues, which represent, among other things, impossible and fleeting beauty. Champagne, Daisy’s hair, the Buchanan house, and Gatsby’s fated coupe are just a few examples of this important color.
Though beautiful and romanticized, “Fish Pond” also depicts economic activity. Fishing and nautical pursuits are matters of business for these workers, not leisure. Gatsby’s relationship with marine activity began as a matter of survival; the second passage above recalls James Gatz’s teenaged years as a clam-digger and fisher, subsisting on whatever his manual labor could earn him. Jay Gatsby was born on the water, as Gatz stared out at Dan Cody’s yacht and decided that this is the moment his new life begins: “It was James Gatz who had been loading along the beach that afternoon… but it was already Jay Gatsby who borrowed a rowboat, pulled out to the Tuolomee, and informed Cody that a wind might catch him and break him up in half an hour” (98). Gatsby’s labor turns from economically productive to unproductive, facilitating “soft-minded” Cody’s leisure cruises around the world (99). Productivity and marine activity will resurface later in this exhibit. Moran’s painting reminds viewers of Gatsby’s early years, the broader economic (in)significance of his lifestyle, and the specter of nostalgia which hangs over so many of the novel’s characters.

“Across the Salt Marshes, Huntington”
Eduard Steichen, ca. 1905

“The rain was still falling, but the darkness had parted in the west, and there was a pink and golden billow of foamy clouds above the sea.” (94)

“For over a year he had been beating his way along the south shore of Lake Superior as a clam-digger and salmon-fisher or in any other capacity that brought him food and bed. His brown, hardening body lived naturally through the half-fierce, half-lazy work of the bracing days.” (98)

“Fish Pond, Orient Bay, Long Island” introduces viewers to several important textual themes, including nostalgia, productivity, and marine activity. Moran’s depiction of Long Island seems historical as well as nostalgic. It shows a romantic and bustling seascape, proud sails and strong male bodies punctuating the horizon. This vision of Long Island as a sailor’s and fisherman’s haven among a beautiful natural landscape fades as the twentieth century marches onward. The raucous, boozy, automobile-laden Long Island which the novel occupies does not much resemble Moran’s, but older versions of familiar landscapes resurface again and again in the novel. Nick’s romanticized view of Gatsby, Gatsby’s own obsession with his youthful love, Daisy’s sudden recollections of childhood memories―everyone clings to nostalgia, “borne back ceaselessly into the past” as the modern marches forward (180). It is therefore useful to understand what that past looks and feels like with works such as Moran’s. This particular painting also relies heavily on the gold hues, which represent, among other things, impossible and fleeting beauty. Champagne, Daisy’s hair, the Buchanan house, and Gatsby’s fated coupe are just a few examples of this important color.

Though beautiful and romanticized, “Fish Pond” also depicts economic activity. Fishing and nautical pursuits are matters of business for these workers, not leisure. Gatsby’s relationship with marine activity began as a matter of survival; the second passage above recalls James Gatz’s teenaged years as a clam-digger and fisher, subsisting on whatever his manual labor could earn him. Jay Gatsby was born on the water, as Gatz stared out at Dan Cody’s yacht and decided that this is the moment his new life begins: “It was James Gatz who had been loading along the beach that afternoon… but it was already Jay Gatsby who borrowed a rowboat, pulled out to the Tuolomee, and informed Cody that a wind might catch him and break him up in half an hour” (98). Gatsby’s labor turns from economically productive to unproductive, facilitating “soft-minded” Cody’s leisure cruises around the world (99). Productivity and marine activity will resurface later in this exhibit. Moran’s painting reminds viewers of Gatsby’s early years, the broader economic (in)significance of his lifestyle, and the specter of nostalgia which hangs over so many of the novel’s characters.

“View of Toledo”El Greco (1541-1614)

“West Egg, especially, still figures in my more fantastic dreams. I see it as a night scene by El Greco: a hundred houses, at once conventional and grotesque, crouching under a sullen, overhanging sky and a lustreless moon. In the foreground four solemn men in dress suits are walking along the sidewalk with a stretcher on which lies a drunken woman in a white evening dress. Her hand, which dangles over the side, sparkles cold with jewels. Gravely the men turn in at a house―the wrong house. But no one knows the woman’s name, and no one cares.” (176)
The first painting in the exhibition is the only one created before the 20 th century, and the only piece of art in this series directly alluded to in the text. In addition to his prominence in the final moments of the book, El Greco is a useful figure with which to begin understanding Nick and Gatsby. El Greco is a Greek painter who spends much of his career creating dramatic and haunting works as a part of Spain’s Counter-Reformation movement (“El Greco”). Like El Greco, Nick and Gatsby are regionally dislocated, Westerners who end up in the East. They also remain fixated on their particular versions of the past, similar to the Counter-Reformation’s desire to return to a Spain of old. Both characters also use art to push back against against the ever-changing present. Gatsby’s attempts to recreate the parties of Daisy’s youth constitute a sort of performance art, and Nick’s narration of the book paints Gatsby as a tragic hero in the tradition of Euripides or Shakespeare.
El Greco’s emotionally charged renderings of ordinary scenes share some traits with Nick’s narration. Nick reads into every occurrence, assigning meaning to gestures and events about which he cannot possibly be certain. He calls a glance between Jordan and Daisy “consciously devoid of meaning” and the way Gatsby sits “gloom[y]” (14, 152). The parties which become routine for Nick to attend take on sinister undertones after a while, too, like El Greco’s dramatic versions of hillsides and skies. People drink too much, talk too loudly, dance too enthusiastically with people who are not their spouses. Nick describes Gatsby’s parties as if they are teetering between extreme and dangerous, rendering them beautiful but potentially violent in a way that resembles El Greco’s works.

“View of Toledo”
El Greco (1541-1614)

“West Egg, especially, still figures in my more fantastic dreams. I see it as a night scene by El Greco: a hundred houses, at once conventional and grotesque, crouching under a sullen, overhanging sky and a lustreless moon. In the foreground four solemn men in dress suits are walking along the sidewalk with a stretcher on which lies a drunken woman in a white evening dress. Her hand, which dangles over the side, sparkles cold with jewels. Gravely the men turn in at a house―the wrong house. But no one knows the woman’s name, and no one cares.” (176)

The first painting in the exhibition is the only one created before the 20 th century, and the only piece of art in this series directly alluded to in the text. In addition to his prominence in the final moments of the book, El Greco is a useful figure with which to begin understanding Nick and Gatsby. El Greco is a Greek painter who spends much of his career creating dramatic and haunting works as a part of Spain’s Counter-Reformation movement (“El Greco”). Like El Greco, Nick and Gatsby are regionally dislocated, Westerners who end up in the East. They also remain fixated on their particular versions of the past, similar to the Counter-Reformation’s desire to return to a Spain of old. Both characters also use art to push back against against the ever-changing present. Gatsby’s attempts to recreate the parties of Daisy’s youth constitute a sort of performance art, and Nick’s narration of the book paints Gatsby as a tragic hero in the tradition of Euripides or Shakespeare.

El Greco’s emotionally charged renderings of ordinary scenes share some traits with Nick’s narration. Nick reads into every occurrence, assigning meaning to gestures and events about which he cannot possibly be certain. He calls a glance between Jordan and Daisy “consciously devoid of meaning” and the way Gatsby sits “gloom[y]” (14, 152). The parties which become routine for Nick to attend take on sinister undertones after a while, too, like El Greco’s dramatic versions of hillsides and skies. People drink too much, talk too loudly, dance too enthusiastically with people who are not their spouses. Nick describes Gatsby’s parties as if they are teetering between extreme and dangerous, rendering them beautiful but potentially violent in a way that resembles El Greco’s works.

“A Worker on the Brooklyn Bridge”Eugene de Salignac, 1928

“’Anything can happen now that we’ve slid over this bridge,’ I thought; ‘anything at all…’” (69)
De Salignac’s photograph of a worker on the Brooklyn Bridge emphasizes the divide between the working class and the leisure class, in the text and in the period. Nick’s overwhelming optimism as he drives into Manhattan is a privileged perspective. The laborers who constructed the bridges which carry Nick into the city do not get to regard their handiwork with a removed, aesthetic gaze. To Nick and his peers, bridges are either utilitarian or aesthetic. A more extreme view of the bridge, a painting by Joseph Stella later in the exhibition, fractures the workers’ finished product into a beautiful but worthless version of the real bridge.
The gaze of the leisure class often erases laborers like the man in de Salignac’s photograph, including within the text of The Great Gatsby. Jordan declines a cocktail “just in from the pantry,” the narrative phrased in a way that makes no mention of the household staffer bearing the cocktail, just the material object (10). Drinks continue to move of their own accord at Gatsby’s party, where “a tray of cocktails floated at us through the twilight” (43). Nick treats servants as if they are either invisible or cogs in the greater machine of a household. He delights in Gatsby’s juice presser, which “could extract the juice of two hundred oranges in half an hour if a little button was pressed two hundred times by a butler’s thumb” (39-40). Mentioning the butler’s thumb dehumanizes the butler, merging the body and labor while erasing the individual. Nick also treats his house’s caretaker like an object when describing his rented house: “I went out to the country alone. I had a dog―at least I had him for a few days until he ran away―and an old Dodge and a Finnish woman, who made my bed and cooked breakfast and muttered Finnish wisdom to herself over the electric stove” (3-4). The caretaker is listed alongside a car, and described only in the context of her labor. Nick’s is an unreal world where servants and laborers either fade into invisibility or merge with the machines they operate. He admits that he is “[not] worth a decent stroke of work” as an employee, so perhaps he has difficulty relating to productive workers (153).
Strains of unreality and ghostliness run through this photograph, too. The light shining from behind the worker gives him an unreal quality, but his lined face and expressive eyes ground his individuality. His form is hulking, but his face defeated. Laura Hapke, a critic of Depression-era and WPA art, characterizes this as an irony of depiction. She writes that “by the Gilded Age, working-class virility was a particularly unstable category”; artists often depicted laborers as “ominous,” especially in groups, but also “fatigued” and “passionless” (27). Radicalized 1930s art would soon show “laboring figures… seeking or plotting challenges to the factory bosses,” but in the Gatsby era, laborers are rendered “vulnerable to the bourgeois gaze” (27, 30). De Salignac’s photograph of a laborer in 1928 brings these problems of representation to viewers’ attention, and contrasts Stella’s representation of the same bridge.

“A Worker on the Brooklyn Bridge”
Eugene de Salignac, 1928


“’Anything can happen now that we’ve slid over this bridge,’ I thought; ‘anything at all…’” (69)

De Salignac’s photograph of a worker on the Brooklyn Bridge emphasizes the divide between the working class and the leisure class, in the text and in the period. Nick’s overwhelming optimism as he drives into Manhattan is a privileged perspective. The laborers who constructed the bridges which carry Nick into the city do not get to regard their handiwork with a removed, aesthetic gaze. To Nick and his peers, bridges are either utilitarian or aesthetic. A more extreme view of the bridge, a painting by Joseph Stella later in the exhibition, fractures the workers’ finished product into a beautiful but worthless version of the real bridge.

The gaze of the leisure class often erases laborers like the man in de Salignac’s photograph, including within the text of The Great Gatsby. Jordan declines a cocktail “just in from the pantry,” the narrative phrased in a way that makes no mention of the household staffer bearing the cocktail, just the material object (10). Drinks continue to move of their own accord at Gatsby’s party, where “a tray of cocktails floated at us through the twilight” (43). Nick treats servants as if they are either invisible or cogs in the greater machine of a household. He delights in Gatsby’s juice presser, which “could extract the juice of two hundred oranges in half an hour if a little button was pressed two hundred times by a butler’s thumb” (39-40). Mentioning the butler’s thumb dehumanizes the butler, merging the body and labor while erasing the individual. Nick also treats his house’s caretaker like an object when describing his rented house: “I went out to the country alone. I had a dog―at least I had him for a few days until he ran away―and an old Dodge and a Finnish woman, who made my bed and cooked breakfast and muttered Finnish wisdom to herself over the electric stove” (3-4). The caretaker is listed alongside a car, and described only in the context of her labor. Nick’s is an unreal world where servants and laborers either fade into invisibility or merge with the machines they operate. He admits that he is “[not] worth a decent stroke of work” as an employee, so perhaps he has difficulty relating to productive workers (153).

Strains of unreality and ghostliness run through this photograph, too. The light shining from behind the worker gives him an unreal quality, but his lined face and expressive eyes ground his individuality. His form is hulking, but his face defeated. Laura Hapke, a critic of Depression-era and WPA art, characterizes this as an irony of depiction. She writes that “by the Gilded Age, working-class virility was a particularly unstable category”; artists often depicted laborers as “ominous,” especially in groups, but also “fatigued” and “passionless” (27). Radicalized 1930s art would soon show “laboring figures… seeking or plotting challenges to the factory bosses,” but in the Gatsby era, laborers are rendered “vulnerable to the bourgeois gaze” (27, 30). De Salignac’s photograph of a laborer in 1928 brings these problems of representation to viewers’ attention, and contrasts Stella’s representation of the same bridge.

“The Arrivals”Guy Péne Du Bois, ca. 1918-1919

“By seven o’clock… already the halls and salons and verandas are gaudy with primary colors, and hair shorn in strange new ways, and shawls beyond the dreams of Castile.” (40)
“The Arrivals” brings the exhibition right to the edge of the 1920s, setting the mood for the riotous decade in which The Great Gatsby takes place. Its striking use of color alerts readers to the general importance of color in the novel, especially of the color red. Fitzgerald uses this color sparingly, which makes its few appearances even more striking. Myrtle’s wounds and the streaks of red blood in Gatsby’s pool are the two most dramatic ‘red moments’ in the text. This association gives du Bois’s depiction of a couple arriving to a party a particularly foreboding mood. Readers of The Great Gatsby expect red to signify violence, especially between male-female couples. Gendered violence saturates the text, from Tom’s and Myrtle’s altercation in the apartment to the tense moments when Tom returns home after Daisy’s accident. It also emerges in Nick’s offhand appositives, like “G. Earl Muldoon, brother to that Muldoon who afterward strangled his wife” (62). Such episodes throb with the color red, and serve as a juxtaposition to du Bois’s seemingly innocent party scene.
Clothing is also a key motif in “The Arrivals” and in The Great Gatsby. The female figure in the painting sheds her heavy coat, revealing a slim white dress underneath. She leaves behind the modest, somber, heavy garment to step forward in a lighter, freer one. Du Bois’s painting dates at the end of the 1910s, on the cusp of the 1920s ‘flapper’ fashion phenomenon. These new styles marked a significant departure of women’s clothing styles from Victorian decades past, favoring looser and more revealing garments. The novel takes place at a time of transition, fashion among those very many trends and people experiencing great change.
While women in The Great Gatsby enjoy freedom in their clothing, Gatsby is dependent upon his garments. A “man in England” chooses his wardrobe for him each season, propagating Gatsby’s reputation as the heir of a monied and established family. Like the other forms of luxury which he surrounds himself with, these shirts and suits are physical evidence of his unspoken yearning for acceptance. He is encumbered by his clothing, which modernist critic Marshall Berman cites as a marker of anti-modernity: “Clothes become an emblem of the old, illusory mode of life; nakedness comes to signify the newly discovered and experienced truth; and the act of taking off one’s clothes becomes an act of spiritual liberation, of becoming real” (Berman 106). Gatsby could never take this radical, self-liberating, modern step of forsaking dated trappings in favor of “experienced truth.” He requires ritual, aesthetics, and material goods to keep his identity solvent.

“The Arrivals”
Guy Péne Du Bois, ca. 1918-1919


“By seven o’clock… already the halls and salons and verandas are gaudy with primary colors, and hair shorn in strange new ways, and shawls beyond the dreams of Castile.” (40)

“The Arrivals” brings the exhibition right to the edge of the 1920s, setting the mood for the riotous decade in which The Great Gatsby takes place. Its striking use of color alerts readers to the general importance of color in the novel, especially of the color red. Fitzgerald uses this color sparingly, which makes its few appearances even more striking. Myrtle’s wounds and the streaks of red blood in Gatsby’s pool are the two most dramatic ‘red moments’ in the text. This association gives du Bois’s depiction of a couple arriving to a party a particularly foreboding mood. Readers of The Great Gatsby expect red to signify violence, especially between male-female couples. Gendered violence saturates the text, from Tom’s and Myrtle’s altercation in the apartment to the tense moments when Tom returns home after Daisy’s accident. It also emerges in Nick’s offhand appositives, like “G. Earl Muldoon, brother to that Muldoon who afterward strangled his wife” (62). Such episodes throb with the color red, and serve as a juxtaposition to du Bois’s seemingly innocent party scene.

Clothing is also a key motif in “The Arrivals” and in The Great Gatsby. The female figure in the painting sheds her heavy coat, revealing a slim white dress underneath. She leaves behind the modest, somber, heavy garment to step forward in a lighter, freer one. Du Bois’s painting dates at the end of the 1910s, on the cusp of the 1920s ‘flapper’ fashion phenomenon. These new styles marked a significant departure of women’s clothing styles from Victorian decades past, favoring looser and more revealing garments. The novel takes place at a time of transition, fashion among those very many trends and people experiencing great change.

While women in The Great Gatsby enjoy freedom in their clothing, Gatsby is dependent upon his garments. A “man in England” chooses his wardrobe for him each season, propagating Gatsby’s reputation as the heir of a monied and established family. Like the other forms of luxury which he surrounds himself with, these shirts and suits are physical evidence of his unspoken yearning for acceptance. He is encumbered by his clothing, which modernist critic Marshall Berman cites as a marker of anti-modernity: “Clothes become an emblem of the old, illusory mode of life; nakedness comes to signify the newly discovered and experienced truth; and the act of taking off one’s clothes becomes an act of spiritual liberation, of becoming real” (Berman 106). Gatsby could never take this radical, self-liberating, modern step of forsaking dated trappings in favor of “experienced truth.” He requires ritual, aesthetics, and material goods to keep his identity solvent.

“Bootleggers”Edward Hopper, 1925

“’He’s a bootlegger.’” (61)
“’I thought you didn’t if you’ll pardon my―you see, I carry on a little business on the side, a sort of side line, you understand.’” (82)
Hopper’s “Bootleggers” shows a clean, aesthetic version of Gatsby’s criminal activity of choice. The painting uses only a few colors, mostly blue and white. Blue is Gatsby’s color, from his blue lawn to his blue pool, and white is a marker of high class status, from Daisy’s and Jordan’s dresses to Nick’s outfit at Gatsby’s first party to Gatsby’s white marble house. Hopper renders his bootleggers in such a mannered way that they would not look out of place at one of Gatsby’s parties. The bootleggers are not devious or dangerous when safely contained on a boat. They do not roam the streets or peek out from a hidden speakeasy, but conduct their business subtly on the open sea. The house also stands apart from any other structures, set in relief against a dark mass of forest or rock. Altogether, Hopper depicts bootlegging as an understated and isolated activity, not the insidious social problem and extensive criminal enterprise it had become by Gatsby’s time.
Readers only get hints of Gatsby’s trade in the text, but Fitzgerald presents them in a very different manner than Hopper does. Wolfsheim, the face of Gatsby’s criminal undertakings, is a caricature: “A small, flat-nosed Jew… with two fine growths of hair which luxuriated in either nostril,” watching Nick with “tiny eyes in the half-darkness” (69). In addition to its problematic ethnic stereotyping, this description makes Wolfsheim seem like an animal, with errant body hair, disproportional features, and the ability to see in half-darkness. He is a quasi-fantastical figure in a warren of an office, as unreal as Hopper’s painting is straightforward. Nick brushes again with the criminal world when he answers Gatsby’s phone. He hears a rapid, jargon-filled, frantic monologue until he announces Gatsby’s death, and the call ends with a “squawk” (166-7). The fractured communication disorients Nick, and Fitzgerald’s continuation of animal imagery emphasizes how alien Gatsby’s criminal life is to his social life.

“Bootleggers”
Edward Hopper, 1925


“’He’s a bootlegger.’” (61)

“’I thought you didn’t if you’ll pardon my―you see, I carry on a little business on the side, a sort of side line, you understand.’” (82)

Hopper’s “Bootleggers” shows a clean, aesthetic version of Gatsby’s criminal activity of choice. The painting uses only a few colors, mostly blue and white. Blue is Gatsby’s color, from his blue lawn to his blue pool, and white is a marker of high class status, from Daisy’s and Jordan’s dresses to Nick’s outfit at Gatsby’s first party to Gatsby’s white marble house. Hopper renders his bootleggers in such a mannered way that they would not look out of place at one of Gatsby’s parties. The bootleggers are not devious or dangerous when safely contained on a boat. They do not roam the streets or peek out from a hidden speakeasy, but conduct their business subtly on the open sea. The house also stands apart from any other structures, set in relief against a dark mass of forest or rock. Altogether, Hopper depicts bootlegging as an understated and isolated activity, not the insidious social problem and extensive criminal enterprise it had become by Gatsby’s time.

Readers only get hints of Gatsby’s trade in the text, but Fitzgerald presents them in a very different manner than Hopper does. Wolfsheim, the face of Gatsby’s criminal undertakings, is a caricature: “A small, flat-nosed Jew… with two fine growths of hair which luxuriated in either nostril,” watching Nick with “tiny eyes in the half-darkness” (69). In addition to its problematic ethnic stereotyping, this description makes Wolfsheim seem like an animal, with errant body hair, disproportional features, and the ability to see in half-darkness. He is a quasi-fantastical figure in a warren of an office, as unreal as Hopper’s painting is straightforward. Nick brushes again with the criminal world when he answers Gatsby’s phone. He hears a rapid, jargon-filled, frantic monologue until he announces Gatsby’s death, and the call ends with a “squawk” (166-7). The fractured communication disorients Nick, and Fitzgerald’s continuation of animal imagery emphasizes how alien Gatsby’s criminal life is to his social life.

“Fish Pond, Orient Bay, Long Island”
Edward Moran, 1876

“To young Gatz, resting on his oars and looking up at the railed deck, that yacht represented all the beauty and glamour in the world.” (100)

“Our eyes lifted over the rose-beds and the hot lawn and the weedy refuse of the dog-days alongshore. Slowly the white wings of the boat moved against the blue cool limit of the sky. Ahead lay the scalloped ocean and the abounding blessed isles.
'There's sport for you,' said Tom, nodding. 'I'd like to be out there with him for about an hour.'” (118)

Edward Hopper’s “Ground Swell” depicts a very different seascape than “Fish Pond.” This is the sort of sea Gatsby sails with Dan Cody: impossibly wide, clear, and endless. At that point in his life, settling into a new identity and dazzled by wealth, Gatsby sees the sea as a playground rather than a workplace. This shift in perspective foreshadows his incredible spending habits when Nick meets him, throwing grand and expensive parties just to enhance his reputation and lure Daisy across the bay. Hopper’s depiction of the sea is overwhelmingly blue and white, the colors of leisure in The Great Gatsby. Gatsby’s blue pool and blue lawn, Daisy’s and Jordan’s white dresses, and the “sugar lump” skyline are literally and metaphorically colored from privileged perspectives (68).
For Tom, the image of a man sailing on the idyllic Sound is a masculine activity and an escape from his married life on shore. He asserts his identity and masculinity with athletic, homosocial activities like horseback riding and sailing. Nick registers Tom’s reappearance in the living room earlier in the novel as “a crunch of leather boots,” and he tries to escape the women’s talk of romance by taking Nick to the stables (15). The sea is a stage for Tom to perform the role of sportsman, man, and un-cuckolded husband. Hopper’s clean, optimistic version of the sea reflects this sense of optimism and escape.

“Fish Pond, Orient Bay, Long Island”

Edward Moran, 1876


“To young Gatz, resting on his oars and looking up at the railed deck, that yacht represented all the beauty and glamour in the world.” (100)


“Our eyes lifted over the rose-beds and the hot lawn and the weedy refuse of the dog-days alongshore. Slowly the white wings of the boat moved against the blue cool limit of the sky. Ahead lay the scalloped ocean and the abounding blessed isles.

'There's sport for you,' said Tom, nodding. 'I'd like to be out there with him for about an hour.'” (118)


Edward Hopper’s “Ground Swell” depicts a very different seascape than “Fish Pond.” This is the sort of sea Gatsby sails with Dan Cody: impossibly wide, clear, and endless. At that point in his life, settling into a new identity and dazzled by wealth, Gatsby sees the sea as a playground rather than a workplace. This shift in perspective foreshadows his incredible spending habits when Nick meets him, throwing grand and expensive parties just to enhance his reputation and lure Daisy across the bay. Hopper’s depiction of the sea is overwhelmingly blue and white, the colors of leisure in The Great Gatsby. Gatsby’s blue pool and blue lawn, Daisy’s and Jordan’s white dresses, and the “sugar lump” skyline are literally and metaphorically colored from privileged perspectives (68).

For Tom, the image of a man sailing on the idyllic Sound is a masculine activity and an escape from his married life on shore. He asserts his identity and masculinity with athletic, homosocial activities like horseback riding and sailing. Nick registers Tom’s reappearance in the living room earlier in the novel as “a crunch of leather boots,” and he tries to escape the women’s talk of romance by taking Nick to the stables (15). The sea is a stage for Tom to perform the role of sportsman, man, and un-cuckolded husband. Hopper’s clean, optimistic version of the sea reflects this sense of optimism and escape.

“Death on the Ridge Road”Grant Wood, 1935

“The ‘death car’ as the newspapers called it, didn’t stop; it came out of the gathering darkness, wavered tragically for a moment, and then disappeared around the next bend. Michaelis wasn’t even sure of its color-he told the first policeman that it was light green.” (137)
“Before me stretched the portentous, menacing road of a new decade.” (135)

This work dates ten years after the publication of The Great Gatsby, and addresses the crisis of modernity which occupies much of the novel’s attention. Old cars and a blocky modern truck careen toward each other in a distorted rural landscape, symbolizing the clash of the status quo with the m. Modernity crashes into the center of the painting in the form of a colorful, sharp-edged truck which brings impending violence with it. Looming violence, automobiles, and tensions between the established and the modern are particularly relevant to the novel. The painting also combines green, yellow, and red, three important colors in the text. Daisy’s golden idealism, Gatsby’s green longing, and red violence cannot exist peacefully together―the intersection of these colors is a crisis point, in the painting and in the novel.
"Death on the Ridge Road" also contains surreal elements. The road curves impossibly, the telephone poles cross the fence, and an improbable storm cuts across the top of the painting. Fitzgerald dips into the surreal, too, bending time and letting his narrative wander. Nick moves from Tom’s and Myrtle’s apartment to Mr. McKee’s bedside to Penn Station in a series of impressionistic flashes of memory just eight lines long (38). Fitzgerald describes how scenes feel as well as how they are, and Wood’s slightly surreal depiction of the moment before a deadly car crash is an excellent depiction of the same effect.

“Death on the Ridge Road”
Grant Wood, 1935


“The ‘death car’ as the newspapers called it, didn’t stop; it came out of the gathering darkness, wavered tragically for a moment, and then disappeared around the next bend. Michaelis wasn’t even sure of its color-he told the first policeman that it was light green.” (137)

“Before me stretched the portentous, menacing road of a new decade.” (135)

This work dates ten years after the publication of The Great Gatsby, and addresses the crisis of modernity which occupies much of the novel’s attention. Old cars and a blocky modern truck careen toward each other in a distorted rural landscape, symbolizing the clash of the status quo with the m. Modernity crashes into the center of the painting in the form of a colorful, sharp-edged truck which brings impending violence with it. Looming violence, automobiles, and tensions between the established and the modern are particularly relevant to the novel. The painting also combines green, yellow, and red, three important colors in the text. Daisy’s golden idealism, Gatsby’s green longing, and red violence cannot exist peacefully together―the intersection of these colors is a crisis point, in the painting and in the novel.

"Death on the Ridge Road" also contains surreal elements. The road curves impossibly, the telephone poles cross the fence, and an improbable storm cuts across the top of the painting. Fitzgerald dips into the surreal, too, bending time and letting his narrative wander. Nick moves from Tom’s and Myrtle’s apartment to Mr. McKee’s bedside to Penn Station in a series of impressionistic flashes of memory just eight lines long (38). Fitzgerald describes how scenes feel as well as how they are, and Wood’s slightly surreal depiction of the moment before a deadly car crash is an excellent depiction of the same effect.

“View of Toledo”
El Greco (1541-1614)

“Over the great bridge, with the sunlight through the girders making a constant flicker upon the moving cars, with the city rising up across the river in white heaps and sugar lumps all built with a wish out of non-olfactory money. The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.” (68)
Stella’s painting imagines the Brooklyn Bridge as a conduit between the viewer and the glittering, modern city. Though this painting dates from the late 1930s, its art deco style recalls Gatsby's gilded 1920s. Unlike the photograph displayed earlier in the exhibition, there is no humanity in this version of the bridge. A portrait of a worker in his workplace invites connection, especially when his gaze connects with the camera and therefore the viewer. However, these chaotic shapes and colors resist simplicity. The painting pushes back against unilateral interpretations―it could resemble a stained glass window, or a traditional mask, or some sort of face with glowing eyes and a harsh blue mouth. The borders on the top and bottom edges seem to frame and contain the painting, but the cables of the bridge reach toward viewers to draw them into the city's splendor. The miniature skyline below the bridge is quaint and and unthreatening, but it lies below violent red blocks of color. Stella's version of the Brooklyn Bridge is contradictory, fractured, and highly stylistic.
Though Stella and photographer de Salignac represent the bridge in vastly different ways, both create art from perspectives to which Nick is increasingly privy. Early in the summer, Nick innocently sees the city as a source of unmitigated opportunity and unspoiled beauty. By the close of the novel, he concludes that he has no place in the East at all, least of all New York: “I see now that this has been a story of the West, after all―Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all Westerners, and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly unadaptable to Eastern life” (176). His uncomplicated view of the city cannot hold up to the pressures of the messy, modern kind of life which Nick experiences over the course of the novel. Nor is the city “built with a wish,” and photographers like de Salignac will continue to represent laborers and the working class despite the leisure class’s discomfort for decades to come.
The “non-olfactory money” which Nick credits for the creation of Manhattan will not last. It is the sort of invisible capital Nick trades in the bond office, and possibly the kind of money Gatsby and his cohorts forge. So too is it the symptom of problematic financial practices which will take down the global economy four years after The Great Gatsby's publication. Nick's early impression of an urban utopia becomes impossible to sustain by the end of the novel, and pieces like Stella's “The Brooklyn Bridge” remind viewers that cities necessitate dynamic, multifaceted perspectives.

“View of Toledo”

El Greco (1541-1614)

“Over the great bridge, with the sunlight through the girders making a constant flicker upon the moving cars, with the city rising up across the river in white heaps and sugar lumps all built with a wish out of non-olfactory money. The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.” (68)

Stella’s painting imagines the Brooklyn Bridge as a conduit between the viewer and the glittering, modern city. Though this painting dates from the late 1930s, its art deco style recalls Gatsby's gilded 1920s. Unlike the photograph displayed earlier in the exhibition, there is no humanity in this version of the bridge. A portrait of a worker in his workplace invites connection, especially when his gaze connects with the camera and therefore the viewer. However, these chaotic shapes and colors resist simplicity. The painting pushes back against unilateral interpretations―it could resemble a stained glass window, or a traditional mask, or some sort of face with glowing eyes and a harsh blue mouth. The borders on the top and bottom edges seem to frame and contain the painting, but the cables of the bridge reach toward viewers to draw them into the city's splendor. The miniature skyline below the bridge is quaint and and unthreatening, but it lies below violent red blocks of color. Stella's version of the Brooklyn Bridge is contradictory, fractured, and highly stylistic.

Though Stella and photographer de Salignac represent the bridge in vastly different ways, both create art from perspectives to which Nick is increasingly privy. Early in the summer, Nick innocently sees the city as a source of unmitigated opportunity and unspoiled beauty. By the close of the novel, he concludes that he has no place in the East at all, least of all New York: “I see now that this has been a story of the West, after all―Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all Westerners, and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly unadaptable to Eastern life” (176). His uncomplicated view of the city cannot hold up to the pressures of the messy, modern kind of life which Nick experiences over the course of the novel. Nor is the city “built with a wish,” and photographers like de Salignac will continue to represent laborers and the working class despite the leisure class’s discomfort for decades to come.

The “non-olfactory money” which Nick credits for the creation of Manhattan will not last. It is the sort of invisible capital Nick trades in the bond office, and possibly the kind of money Gatsby and his cohorts forge. So too is it the symptom of problematic financial practices which will take down the global economy four years after The Great Gatsby's publication. Nick's early impression of an urban utopia becomes impossible to sustain by the end of the novel, and pieces like Stella's “The Brooklyn Bridge” remind viewers that cities necessitate dynamic, multifaceted perspectives.

Works Cited

Baigell, Matthew. The American Scene: American Painting of the 1930’s.New York: Praeger, 1974. Print.

Berman, Marshall. All That Is Solid Melts into Air: the Experience of Modernity. New York, N.Y., U.S.A.: Viking Penguin, 1988. Print.

Dodge, William de Leftwich. “Dolphin Bay.” ca. 1915. George P. Tweed Memorial Art Collection, Tweed Museum of Art, University of Minnesota at Duluth. LI Landscapes 147.

Du Bois, Guy Péne. “The Arrivals.” ca. 1918-1919. The Phillips Collection, Washington D.C. ARTstor. Web. 15 April 2012.

El Greco. “View of Toledo.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. ARTstor. Web. 24 April 2012.

"El Greco: Overview." El Greco Tour. National Gallery of Art. Web. 20 Apr. 2012. <http://www.nga.gov/collection/gallery/gg29/gg29-over1.html>.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Scribner, 2004. Print.

Hapke, Laura. Labor’s Canvas: American Working-class History and the WPA Art of the 1930s. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, 2008. Print.

Hopper, Edward. “Bootleggers.” 1925. Currier Gallery of Art, New Hampshire. ARTstor. Web. 26 April 2012.

——————————-“Ground Swell.” 1939. Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. ARTstor. Web. 26 April 2012.

Moran, Edward. “Fish Pond, Orient Bay, Long Island.” 1876. Private collection. LI Landscapes 74.

Pisano, Ronald G. Long Island Landscape Painting, 1820-1920. Boston: Little, Brown and, 1985. Print.

Salignac, Eugene de. “A worker on the Brooklyn Bridge.” 1928. Municipal Archives, NYC Department of Records. Web. 27 April 2012. <http://dft.ba/-2zAx>.

Steichen, Eduard. “Across the Salt Marshes, Huntington.” ca. 1905. Toledo Moseum of Art, Toledo. LI Landscapes 149.

Stella, Joseph. “The Brooklyn Bridge: Variation on an Old Theme.” 1939. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. ARTstor. Web. 27 April 2012.

Wood, Grant. “Death on the Ridge Road.” 1935. ARTstor. Web. 26 April 2012.

Welcome

Welcome to “The Constantly Changing Light,” an art exhibition inspired by themes in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. These pieces, primarily early 20th century American works, are presented in chronological order. All are paintings, except for a photograph which provides a different perspective on one painting’s subject. Selections from the text of The Great Gatsby are presented alongside each piece of art. The notes in this catalog consider the artwork and accompanying text together, reading each ‘unit’ of image and words with a cross-disciplinary vocabulary and select outside references.

The focus of the exhibition is differences in perspective. These play out between characters in The Great Gatsby, between Fitzgerald and the artists on display, between different artists, and even competing perspectives within the same reader. It was a challenge to focus on just one issue in such a multifaceted text, but several associated themes are also present in the ensuing discussions on perspective. These include labor, nostalgia, violence, identity, masculinity, narrative, modernity, gendering, and color symbolism. These many specific issues of perspective emphasize the complexity of Fitzgerald’s work, and encourage readers to push beyond the poetic surface of the text.

The Gallery urges visitors to use this catalog as a starting point for re-experiencing Fitzgerald’s classic text through each of these pieces. Consider the exhibit as a whole, the four decades it spans, and the progress of styles and subjects. Read the textual selections printed next to each work (and in this catalog!), and note important features like color, style, and point of view in both mediums. Look up these selections in your copy of The Great Gatsby to get a better sense of their context. Forgot yours at home? Limited-edition copies are available in the gift shop.

Our team of literary scholars, art historians, and curators hopes that Gatsby enthusiasts and casual consumers of culture alike will find something to love in this exciting new exhibition, presented to you by The Gallery.

“Dolphin Bay”William de Leftwich Dodge, ca. 1915

“A wafer of a moon was shining over Gatsby&#8217;s house, making the night fine as before, and surviving the laughter and the sound of his still glowing garden. A sudden emptiness seemed to flow now from the windows and the great doors&#8230;” (55)
Unadorned with lights or people, Gatsby&#8217;s house appears almost spectral in the fading light. Nick&#8217;s first glimpse of Gatsby is at such a moment, when Gatsby is alone at the shore, regarding a view similar to the one Dodge depicts here. The lights, people, and commotion are what make his house seem otherworldly and carnival-like; stripped of these trappings, the home appears empty and somewhat haunting. The view from the back garden is rendered here much more clearly than in “Across the Salt Marshes,” presented without the hazy green filter of Gatsby&#8217;s single-minded desire for Daisy.
This painting also combines the gold/orange and blue/green color schemes, a figurative melding of Daisy&#8217;s and Gatsby&#8217;s worlds. “Dolphin Bay” is a sort of compromise between the romantic figuring of “Fish Pond” and the blurred gaze of “Across the Salt Marshes” Its color scheme and elegant lines make for a beautiful picture, but its strange emptiness and iridescent light add tension to the painting. Fitzgerald also tends to complicate otherwise unilaterally beautiful scenes: no discussions occur without unspoken tensions; Nick analyzes and reads into everything as a narrator; and colors always hold symbolic as well as visual potency.

“Dolphin Bay”
William de Leftwich Dodge, ca. 1915


“A wafer of a moon was shining over Gatsby’s house, making the night fine as before, and surviving the laughter and the sound of his still glowing garden. A sudden emptiness seemed to flow now from the windows and the great doors…” (55)

Unadorned with lights or people, Gatsby’s house appears almost spectral in the fading light. Nick’s first glimpse of Gatsby is at such a moment, when Gatsby is alone at the shore, regarding a view similar to the one Dodge depicts here. The lights, people, and commotion are what make his house seem otherworldly and carnival-like; stripped of these trappings, the home appears empty and somewhat haunting. The view from the back garden is rendered here much more clearly than in “Across the Salt Marshes,” presented without the hazy green filter of Gatsby’s single-minded desire for Daisy.

This painting also combines the gold/orange and blue/green color schemes, a figurative melding of Daisy’s and Gatsby’s worlds. “Dolphin Bay” is a sort of compromise between the romantic figuring of “Fish Pond” and the blurred gaze of “Across the Salt Marshes” Its color scheme and elegant lines make for a beautiful picture, but its strange emptiness and iridescent light add tension to the painting. Fitzgerald also tends to complicate otherwise unilaterally beautiful scenes: no discussions occur without unspoken tensions; Nick analyzes and reads into everything as a narrator; and colors always hold symbolic as well as visual potency.

“Across the Salt Marshes, Huntington”Eduard Steichen, ca. 1905

“&#8217;It was a strange coincidence,&#8217; I said. &#8216;But it wasn&#8217;t a coincidence at all.&#8217; &#8216;Why not?&#8217;'Gatsby bought that house so that Daisy would be just across the bay.'” (78)
“&#8217;If it wasn&#8217;t for the mist we could see your home across the bay,&#8217; said Gatsby. &#8216;You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock.&#8217;” (92)

Steichen&#8217;s 1905 landscape is a hazy take on the North Shore salt marshes, rendered dreamlike with blurred edges, wavering tree trunks, and muted colors. The painting has a physical effect on viewers, encouraging the eyes to unfocus and the gaze to drift. Vision is often manipulated and obstructed in The Great Gatsby, representing physical manifestations of interpersonal misunderstandings. This painting could well be Gatsby&#8217;s view across the bay from his garden, and the green color palette invites comparison to Daisy&#8217;s green dock light. The way Gatsby regards this view is blurred like the painting. He sees the water separating him from Daisy as an opportunity for reconnecting, a potentially fruitful space which bridges their symbolic distance. However, in reality, the water constitutes that very distance! The water is not a potential solution, but the problem itself―at least as far as geography is concerned.
Another instance of obscured vision is the “valley of ashes,” where one does not see but “perceive” (23). All color is sucked out of the landscape, rendering it monochromatically gray. This is a space where not just vision but morality blurs at the edges, leaving characters to operate in a &#8216;gray area&#8217; of behavior as well as color. Tom and Myrtle, for example, choose at the garage to go continue their affair. Though they have a space in Manhattan to actually transgress their marital boundaries, their affair is rendered most desirous in the valley. In Manhattan, Myrtle acts strangely around their company and Tom lashes out at her physically. But in the hazy and obscured valley, their desire is its most potent, unspoken and restrained. The valley also sees Daisy&#8217;s manslaughter and choice to flee the scene. Her car “waver[s]” after striking Myrtle&#8217;s body, at which point Daisy could abide by moral and legal codes and stop her car (137). Instead, she drives away, a questionable decision following a suspicious accident in the valley of ashes.
Instances of clear sight are rare in the text, standing out against so much obscurity and filtration. The disembodied eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg, for example, pierce through their surroundings. Catching sight of them sparks moments of mental clarity for the characters. Nick remembers Gatsby&#8217;s warning about gas when he sees the eyes from Tom&#8217;s car; again catching sight of them at the gas station, he realizes Myrtle&#8217;s mistaken assumption that Jordan is Tom&#8217;s wife (122, 124). Michaelis, in the middle of a discussion with Wilson about God&#8217;s omniscience, starts when Eckleburg&#8217;s eyes emerge from the “dissolving night” to stare into his own (159-160). These flashes of clarity punctuate the many sustained misinterpretations of the physical landscape, including Gatsby&#8217;s obscured view of Daisy&#8217;s dock. Steichen&#8217;s painting raises these concerns for viewers, as well as giving the exhibition a dose of the textually significant color green.

“Across the Salt Marshes, Huntington”
Eduard Steichen, ca. 1905

“’It was a strange coincidence,’ I said.
‘But it wasn’t a coincidence at all.’
‘Why not?’
'Gatsby bought that house so that Daisy would be just across the bay.'” (78)

“’If it wasn’t for the mist we could see your home across the bay,’ said Gatsby. ‘You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock.’” (92)

Steichen’s 1905 landscape is a hazy take on the North Shore salt marshes, rendered dreamlike with blurred edges, wavering tree trunks, and muted colors. The painting has a physical effect on viewers, encouraging the eyes to unfocus and the gaze to drift. Vision is often manipulated and obstructed in The Great Gatsby, representing physical manifestations of interpersonal misunderstandings. This painting could well be Gatsby’s view across the bay from his garden, and the green color palette invites comparison to Daisy’s green dock light. The way Gatsby regards this view is blurred like the painting. He sees the water separating him from Daisy as an opportunity for reconnecting, a potentially fruitful space which bridges their symbolic distance. However, in reality, the water constitutes that very distance! The water is not a potential solution, but the problem itself―at least as far as geography is concerned.

Another instance of obscured vision is the “valley of ashes,” where one does not see but “perceive” (23). All color is sucked out of the landscape, rendering it monochromatically gray. This is a space where not just vision but morality blurs at the edges, leaving characters to operate in a ‘gray area’ of behavior as well as color. Tom and Myrtle, for example, choose at the garage to go continue their affair. Though they have a space in Manhattan to actually transgress their marital boundaries, their affair is rendered most desirous in the valley. In Manhattan, Myrtle acts strangely around their company and Tom lashes out at her physically. But in the hazy and obscured valley, their desire is its most potent, unspoken and restrained. The valley also sees Daisy’s manslaughter and choice to flee the scene. Her car “waver[s]” after striking Myrtle’s body, at which point Daisy could abide by moral and legal codes and stop her car (137). Instead, she drives away, a questionable decision following a suspicious accident in the valley of ashes.

Instances of clear sight are rare in the text, standing out against so much obscurity and filtration. The disembodied eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg, for example, pierce through their surroundings. Catching sight of them sparks moments of mental clarity for the characters. Nick remembers Gatsby’s warning about gas when he sees the eyes from Tom’s car; again catching sight of them at the gas station, he realizes Myrtle’s mistaken assumption that Jordan is Tom’s wife (122, 124). Michaelis, in the middle of a discussion with Wilson about God’s omniscience, starts when Eckleburg’s eyes emerge from the “dissolving night” to stare into his own (159-160). These flashes of clarity punctuate the many sustained misinterpretations of the physical landscape, including Gatsby’s obscured view of Daisy’s dock. Steichen’s painting raises these concerns for viewers, as well as giving the exhibition a dose of the textually significant color green.

“Across the Salt Marshes, Huntington”Eduard Steichen, ca. 1905

“The rain was still falling, but the darkness had parted in the west, and there was a pink and golden billow of foamy clouds above the sea.” (94)
“For over a year he had been beating his way along the south shore of Lake Superior as a clam-digger and salmon-fisher or in any other capacity that brought him food and bed. His brown, hardening body lived naturally through the half-fierce, half-lazy work of the bracing days.” (98)
“Fish Pond, Orient Bay, Long Island” introduces viewers to several important textual themes, including nostalgia, productivity, and marine activity. Moran&#8217;s depiction of Long Island seems historical as well as nostalgic. It shows a romantic and bustling seascape, proud sails and strong male bodies punctuating the horizon. This vision of Long Island as a sailor&#8217;s and fisherman&#8217;s haven among a beautiful natural landscape fades as the twentieth century marches onward. The raucous, boozy, automobile-laden Long Island which the novel occupies does not much resemble Moran&#8217;s, but older versions of familiar landscapes resurface again and again in the novel. Nick&#8217;s romanticized view of Gatsby, Gatsby&#8217;s own obsession with his youthful love, Daisy&#8217;s sudden recollections of childhood memories―everyone clings to nostalgia, “borne back ceaselessly into the past” as the modern marches forward (180). It is therefore useful to understand what that past looks and feels like with works such as Moran&#8217;s. This particular painting also relies heavily on the gold hues, which represent, among other things, impossible and fleeting beauty. Champagne, Daisy&#8217;s hair, the Buchanan house, and Gatsby&#8217;s fated coupe are just a few examples of this important color.
Though beautiful and romanticized, “Fish Pond” also depicts economic activity. Fishing and nautical pursuits are matters of business for these workers, not leisure. Gatsby&#8217;s relationship with marine activity began as a matter of survival; the second passage above recalls James Gatz&#8217;s teenaged years as a clam-digger and fisher, subsisting on whatever his manual labor could earn him. Jay Gatsby was born on the water, as Gatz stared out at Dan Cody&#8217;s yacht and decided that this is the moment his new life begins: “It was James Gatz who had been loading along the beach that afternoon&#8230; but it was already Jay Gatsby who borrowed a rowboat, pulled out to the Tuolomee, and informed Cody that a wind might catch him and break him up in half an hour” (98). Gatsby&#8217;s labor turns from economically productive to unproductive, facilitating “soft-minded” Cody&#8217;s leisure cruises around the world (99). Productivity and marine activity will resurface later in this exhibit. Moran&#8217;s painting reminds viewers of Gatsby&#8217;s early years, the broader economic (in)significance of his lifestyle, and the specter of nostalgia which hangs over so many of the novel&#8217;s characters.

“Across the Salt Marshes, Huntington”
Eduard Steichen, ca. 1905

“The rain was still falling, but the darkness had parted in the west, and there was a pink and golden billow of foamy clouds above the sea.” (94)

“For over a year he had been beating his way along the south shore of Lake Superior as a clam-digger and salmon-fisher or in any other capacity that brought him food and bed. His brown, hardening body lived naturally through the half-fierce, half-lazy work of the bracing days.” (98)

“Fish Pond, Orient Bay, Long Island” introduces viewers to several important textual themes, including nostalgia, productivity, and marine activity. Moran’s depiction of Long Island seems historical as well as nostalgic. It shows a romantic and bustling seascape, proud sails and strong male bodies punctuating the horizon. This vision of Long Island as a sailor’s and fisherman’s haven among a beautiful natural landscape fades as the twentieth century marches onward. The raucous, boozy, automobile-laden Long Island which the novel occupies does not much resemble Moran’s, but older versions of familiar landscapes resurface again and again in the novel. Nick’s romanticized view of Gatsby, Gatsby’s own obsession with his youthful love, Daisy’s sudden recollections of childhood memories―everyone clings to nostalgia, “borne back ceaselessly into the past” as the modern marches forward (180). It is therefore useful to understand what that past looks and feels like with works such as Moran’s. This particular painting also relies heavily on the gold hues, which represent, among other things, impossible and fleeting beauty. Champagne, Daisy’s hair, the Buchanan house, and Gatsby’s fated coupe are just a few examples of this important color.

Though beautiful and romanticized, “Fish Pond” also depicts economic activity. Fishing and nautical pursuits are matters of business for these workers, not leisure. Gatsby’s relationship with marine activity began as a matter of survival; the second passage above recalls James Gatz’s teenaged years as a clam-digger and fisher, subsisting on whatever his manual labor could earn him. Jay Gatsby was born on the water, as Gatz stared out at Dan Cody’s yacht and decided that this is the moment his new life begins: “It was James Gatz who had been loading along the beach that afternoon… but it was already Jay Gatsby who borrowed a rowboat, pulled out to the Tuolomee, and informed Cody that a wind might catch him and break him up in half an hour” (98). Gatsby’s labor turns from economically productive to unproductive, facilitating “soft-minded” Cody’s leisure cruises around the world (99). Productivity and marine activity will resurface later in this exhibit. Moran’s painting reminds viewers of Gatsby’s early years, the broader economic (in)significance of his lifestyle, and the specter of nostalgia which hangs over so many of the novel’s characters.

“View of Toledo”El Greco (1541-1614)

“West Egg, especially, still figures in my more fantastic dreams. I see it as a night scene by El Greco: a hundred houses, at once conventional and grotesque, crouching under a sullen, overhanging sky and a lustreless moon. In the foreground four solemn men in dress suits are walking along the sidewalk with a stretcher on which lies a drunken woman in a white evening dress. Her hand, which dangles over the side, sparkles cold with jewels. Gravely the men turn in at a house―the wrong house. But no one knows the woman’s name, and no one cares.” (176)
The first painting in the exhibition is the only one created before the 20&#160;th century, and the only piece of art in this series directly alluded to in the text. In addition to his prominence in the final moments of the book, El Greco is a useful figure with which to begin understanding Nick and Gatsby. El Greco is a Greek painter who spends much of his career creating dramatic and haunting works as a part of Spain&#8217;s Counter-Reformation movement (“El Greco”). Like El Greco, Nick and Gatsby are regionally dislocated, Westerners who end up in the East. They also remain fixated on their particular versions of the past, similar to the Counter-Reformation&#8217;s desire to return to a Spain of old. Both characters also use art to push back against against the ever-changing present. Gatsby&#8217;s attempts to recreate the parties of Daisy&#8217;s youth constitute a sort of performance art, and Nick&#8217;s narration of the book paints Gatsby as a tragic hero in the tradition of Euripides or Shakespeare.
El Greco&#8217;s emotionally charged renderings of ordinary scenes share some traits with Nick&#8217;s narration. Nick reads into every occurrence, assigning meaning to gestures and events about which he cannot possibly be certain. He calls a glance between Jordan and Daisy “consciously devoid of meaning” and the way Gatsby sits “gloom[y]” (14, 152). The parties which become routine for Nick to attend take on sinister undertones after a while, too, like El Greco&#8217;s dramatic versions of hillsides and skies. People drink too much, talk too loudly, dance too enthusiastically with people who are not their spouses. Nick describes Gatsby&#8217;s parties as if they are teetering between extreme and dangerous, rendering them beautiful but potentially violent in a way that resembles El Greco&#8217;s works.

“View of Toledo”
El Greco (1541-1614)

“West Egg, especially, still figures in my more fantastic dreams. I see it as a night scene by El Greco: a hundred houses, at once conventional and grotesque, crouching under a sullen, overhanging sky and a lustreless moon. In the foreground four solemn men in dress suits are walking along the sidewalk with a stretcher on which lies a drunken woman in a white evening dress. Her hand, which dangles over the side, sparkles cold with jewels. Gravely the men turn in at a house―the wrong house. But no one knows the woman’s name, and no one cares.” (176)

The first painting in the exhibition is the only one created before the 20 th century, and the only piece of art in this series directly alluded to in the text. In addition to his prominence in the final moments of the book, El Greco is a useful figure with which to begin understanding Nick and Gatsby. El Greco is a Greek painter who spends much of his career creating dramatic and haunting works as a part of Spain’s Counter-Reformation movement (“El Greco”). Like El Greco, Nick and Gatsby are regionally dislocated, Westerners who end up in the East. They also remain fixated on their particular versions of the past, similar to the Counter-Reformation’s desire to return to a Spain of old. Both characters also use art to push back against against the ever-changing present. Gatsby’s attempts to recreate the parties of Daisy’s youth constitute a sort of performance art, and Nick’s narration of the book paints Gatsby as a tragic hero in the tradition of Euripides or Shakespeare.

El Greco’s emotionally charged renderings of ordinary scenes share some traits with Nick’s narration. Nick reads into every occurrence, assigning meaning to gestures and events about which he cannot possibly be certain. He calls a glance between Jordan and Daisy “consciously devoid of meaning” and the way Gatsby sits “gloom[y]” (14, 152). The parties which become routine for Nick to attend take on sinister undertones after a while, too, like El Greco’s dramatic versions of hillsides and skies. People drink too much, talk too loudly, dance too enthusiastically with people who are not their spouses. Nick describes Gatsby’s parties as if they are teetering between extreme and dangerous, rendering them beautiful but potentially violent in a way that resembles El Greco’s works.

“A Worker on the Brooklyn Bridge”Eugene de Salignac, 1928

“&#8217;Anything can happen now that we&#8217;ve slid over this bridge,&#8217; I thought; &#8216;anything at all&#8230;&#8217;” (69)
De Salignac&#8217;s photograph of a worker on the Brooklyn Bridge emphasizes the divide between the working class and the leisure class, in the text and in the period. Nick&#8217;s overwhelming optimism as he drives into Manhattan is a privileged perspective. The laborers who constructed the bridges which carry Nick into the city do not get to regard their handiwork with a removed, aesthetic gaze. To Nick and his peers, bridges are either utilitarian or aesthetic. A more extreme view of the bridge, a painting by Joseph Stella later in the exhibition, fractures the workers&#8217; finished product into a beautiful but worthless version of the real bridge.
The gaze of the leisure class often erases laborers like the man in de Salignac&#8217;s photograph, including within the text of The Great Gatsby. Jordan declines a cocktail “just in from the pantry,” the narrative phrased in a way that makes no mention of the household staffer bearing the cocktail, just the material object (10). Drinks continue to move of their own accord at Gatsby&#8217;s party, where “a tray of cocktails floated at us through the twilight” (43). Nick treats servants as if they are either invisible or cogs in the greater machine of a household. He delights in Gatsby&#8217;s juice presser, which “could extract the juice of two hundred oranges in half an hour if a little button was pressed two hundred times by a butler&#8217;s thumb” (39-40). Mentioning the butler&#8217;s thumb dehumanizes the butler, merging the body and labor while erasing the individual. Nick also treats his house&#8217;s caretaker like an object when describing his rented house: “I went out to the country alone. I had a dog―at least I had him for a few days until he ran away―and an old Dodge and a Finnish woman, who made my bed and cooked breakfast and muttered Finnish wisdom to herself over the electric stove” (3-4). The caretaker is listed alongside a car, and described only in the context of her labor. Nick&#8217;s is an unreal world where servants and laborers either fade into invisibility or merge with the machines they operate. He admits that he is “[not] worth a decent stroke of work” as an employee, so perhaps he has difficulty relating to productive workers (153).
Strains of unreality and ghostliness run through this photograph, too. The light shining from behind the worker gives him an unreal quality, but his lined face and expressive eyes ground his individuality. His form is hulking, but his face defeated. Laura Hapke, a critic of Depression-era and WPA art, characterizes this as an irony of depiction. She writes that “by the Gilded Age, working-class virility was a particularly unstable category”; artists often depicted laborers as “ominous,” especially in groups, but also “fatigued” and “passionless” (27). Radicalized 1930s art would soon show “laboring figures&#8230; seeking or plotting challenges to the factory bosses,” but in the Gatsby era, laborers are rendered “vulnerable to the bourgeois gaze” (27, 30). De Salignac&#8217;s photograph of a laborer in 1928 brings these problems of representation to viewers&#8217; attention, and contrasts Stella&#8217;s representation of the same bridge.

“A Worker on the Brooklyn Bridge”
Eugene de Salignac, 1928


“’Anything can happen now that we’ve slid over this bridge,’ I thought; ‘anything at all…’” (69)

De Salignac’s photograph of a worker on the Brooklyn Bridge emphasizes the divide between the working class and the leisure class, in the text and in the period. Nick’s overwhelming optimism as he drives into Manhattan is a privileged perspective. The laborers who constructed the bridges which carry Nick into the city do not get to regard their handiwork with a removed, aesthetic gaze. To Nick and his peers, bridges are either utilitarian or aesthetic. A more extreme view of the bridge, a painting by Joseph Stella later in the exhibition, fractures the workers’ finished product into a beautiful but worthless version of the real bridge.

The gaze of the leisure class often erases laborers like the man in de Salignac’s photograph, including within the text of The Great Gatsby. Jordan declines a cocktail “just in from the pantry,” the narrative phrased in a way that makes no mention of the household staffer bearing the cocktail, just the material object (10). Drinks continue to move of their own accord at Gatsby’s party, where “a tray of cocktails floated at us through the twilight” (43). Nick treats servants as if they are either invisible or cogs in the greater machine of a household. He delights in Gatsby’s juice presser, which “could extract the juice of two hundred oranges in half an hour if a little button was pressed two hundred times by a butler’s thumb” (39-40). Mentioning the butler’s thumb dehumanizes the butler, merging the body and labor while erasing the individual. Nick also treats his house’s caretaker like an object when describing his rented house: “I went out to the country alone. I had a dog―at least I had him for a few days until he ran away―and an old Dodge and a Finnish woman, who made my bed and cooked breakfast and muttered Finnish wisdom to herself over the electric stove” (3-4). The caretaker is listed alongside a car, and described only in the context of her labor. Nick’s is an unreal world where servants and laborers either fade into invisibility or merge with the machines they operate. He admits that he is “[not] worth a decent stroke of work” as an employee, so perhaps he has difficulty relating to productive workers (153).

Strains of unreality and ghostliness run through this photograph, too. The light shining from behind the worker gives him an unreal quality, but his lined face and expressive eyes ground his individuality. His form is hulking, but his face defeated. Laura Hapke, a critic of Depression-era and WPA art, characterizes this as an irony of depiction. She writes that “by the Gilded Age, working-class virility was a particularly unstable category”; artists often depicted laborers as “ominous,” especially in groups, but also “fatigued” and “passionless” (27). Radicalized 1930s art would soon show “laboring figures… seeking or plotting challenges to the factory bosses,” but in the Gatsby era, laborers are rendered “vulnerable to the bourgeois gaze” (27, 30). De Salignac’s photograph of a laborer in 1928 brings these problems of representation to viewers’ attention, and contrasts Stella’s representation of the same bridge.

“The Arrivals”Guy Péne Du Bois, ca. 1918-1919

“By seven o&#8217;clock&#8230; already the halls and salons and verandas are gaudy with primary colors, and hair shorn in strange new ways, and shawls beyond the dreams of Castile.” (40)
“The Arrivals” brings the exhibition right to the edge of the 1920s, setting the mood for the riotous decade in which The Great Gatsby takes place. Its striking use of color alerts readers to the general importance of color in the novel, especially of the color red. Fitzgerald uses this color sparingly, which makes its few appearances even more striking. Myrtle&#8217;s wounds and the streaks of red blood in Gatsby&#8217;s pool are the two most dramatic &#8216;red moments&#8217; in the text. This association gives du Bois&#8217;s depiction of a couple arriving to a party a particularly foreboding mood. Readers of The Great Gatsby expect red to signify violence, especially between male-female couples. Gendered violence saturates the text, from Tom&#8217;s and Myrtle&#8217;s altercation in the apartment to the tense moments when Tom returns home after Daisy&#8217;s accident. It also emerges in Nick&#8217;s offhand appositives, like “G. Earl Muldoon, brother to that Muldoon who afterward strangled his wife” (62). Such episodes throb with the color red, and serve as a juxtaposition to du Bois&#8217;s seemingly innocent party scene.
Clothing is also a key motif in “The Arrivals” and in The Great Gatsby. The female figure in the painting sheds her heavy coat, revealing a slim white dress underneath. She leaves behind the modest, somber, heavy garment to step forward in a lighter, freer one. Du Bois&#8217;s painting dates at the end of the 1910s, on the cusp of the 1920s &#8216;flapper&#8217; fashion phenomenon. These new styles marked a significant departure of women&#8217;s clothing styles from Victorian decades past, favoring looser and more revealing garments. The novel takes place at a time of transition, fashion among those very many trends and people experiencing great change.
While women in The Great Gatsby enjoy freedom in their clothing, Gatsby is dependent upon his garments. A “man in England” chooses his wardrobe for him each season, propagating Gatsby&#8217;s reputation as the heir of a monied and established family. Like the other forms of luxury which he surrounds himself with, these shirts and suits are physical evidence of his unspoken yearning for acceptance. He is encumbered by his clothing, which modernist critic Marshall Berman cites as a marker of anti-modernity: “Clothes become an emblem of the old, illusory mode of life; nakedness comes to signify the newly discovered and experienced truth; and the act of taking off one&#8217;s clothes becomes an act of spiritual liberation, of becoming real” (Berman 106). Gatsby could never take this radical, self-liberating, modern step of forsaking dated trappings in favor of “experienced truth.” He requires ritual, aesthetics, and material goods to keep his identity solvent.

“The Arrivals”
Guy Péne Du Bois, ca. 1918-1919


“By seven o’clock… already the halls and salons and verandas are gaudy with primary colors, and hair shorn in strange new ways, and shawls beyond the dreams of Castile.” (40)

“The Arrivals” brings the exhibition right to the edge of the 1920s, setting the mood for the riotous decade in which The Great Gatsby takes place. Its striking use of color alerts readers to the general importance of color in the novel, especially of the color red. Fitzgerald uses this color sparingly, which makes its few appearances even more striking. Myrtle’s wounds and the streaks of red blood in Gatsby’s pool are the two most dramatic ‘red moments’ in the text. This association gives du Bois’s depiction of a couple arriving to a party a particularly foreboding mood. Readers of The Great Gatsby expect red to signify violence, especially between male-female couples. Gendered violence saturates the text, from Tom’s and Myrtle’s altercation in the apartment to the tense moments when Tom returns home after Daisy’s accident. It also emerges in Nick’s offhand appositives, like “G. Earl Muldoon, brother to that Muldoon who afterward strangled his wife” (62). Such episodes throb with the color red, and serve as a juxtaposition to du Bois’s seemingly innocent party scene.

Clothing is also a key motif in “The Arrivals” and in The Great Gatsby. The female figure in the painting sheds her heavy coat, revealing a slim white dress underneath. She leaves behind the modest, somber, heavy garment to step forward in a lighter, freer one. Du Bois’s painting dates at the end of the 1910s, on the cusp of the 1920s ‘flapper’ fashion phenomenon. These new styles marked a significant departure of women’s clothing styles from Victorian decades past, favoring looser and more revealing garments. The novel takes place at a time of transition, fashion among those very many trends and people experiencing great change.

While women in The Great Gatsby enjoy freedom in their clothing, Gatsby is dependent upon his garments. A “man in England” chooses his wardrobe for him each season, propagating Gatsby’s reputation as the heir of a monied and established family. Like the other forms of luxury which he surrounds himself with, these shirts and suits are physical evidence of his unspoken yearning for acceptance. He is encumbered by his clothing, which modernist critic Marshall Berman cites as a marker of anti-modernity: “Clothes become an emblem of the old, illusory mode of life; nakedness comes to signify the newly discovered and experienced truth; and the act of taking off one’s clothes becomes an act of spiritual liberation, of becoming real” (Berman 106). Gatsby could never take this radical, self-liberating, modern step of forsaking dated trappings in favor of “experienced truth.” He requires ritual, aesthetics, and material goods to keep his identity solvent.

“Bootleggers”Edward Hopper, 1925

“&#8217;He&#8217;s a bootlegger.&#8217;” (61)
“&#8217;I thought you didn&#8217;t if you&#8217;ll pardon my―you see, I carry on a little business on the side, a sort of side line, you understand.&#8217;” (82)
Hopper&#8217;s “Bootleggers” shows a clean, aesthetic version of Gatsby&#8217;s criminal activity of choice. The painting uses only a few colors, mostly blue and white. Blue is Gatsby&#8217;s color, from his blue lawn to his blue pool, and white is a marker of high class status, from Daisy&#8217;s and Jordan&#8217;s dresses to Nick&#8217;s outfit at Gatsby&#8217;s first party to Gatsby&#8217;s white marble house. Hopper renders his bootleggers in such a mannered way that they would not look out of place at one of Gatsby&#8217;s parties. The bootleggers are not devious or dangerous when safely contained on a boat. They do not roam the streets or peek out from a hidden speakeasy, but conduct their business subtly on the open sea. The house also stands apart from any other structures, set in relief against a dark mass of forest or rock. Altogether, Hopper depicts bootlegging as an understated and isolated activity, not the insidious social problem and extensive criminal enterprise it had become by Gatsby&#8217;s time.
Readers only get hints of Gatsby&#8217;s trade in the text, but Fitzgerald presents them in a very different manner than Hopper does. Wolfsheim, the face of Gatsby&#8217;s criminal undertakings, is a caricature: “A small, flat-nosed Jew&#8230; with two fine growths of hair which luxuriated in either nostril,” watching Nick with “tiny eyes in the half-darkness” (69). In addition to its problematic ethnic stereotyping, this description makes Wolfsheim seem like an animal, with errant body hair, disproportional features, and the ability to see in half-darkness. He is a quasi-fantastical figure in a warren of an office, as unreal as Hopper&#8217;s painting is straightforward. Nick brushes again with the criminal world when he answers Gatsby&#8217;s phone. He hears a rapid, jargon-filled, frantic monologue until he announces Gatsby&#8217;s death, and the call ends with a “squawk” (166-7). The fractured communication disorients Nick, and Fitzgerald&#8217;s continuation of animal imagery emphasizes how alien Gatsby&#8217;s criminal life is to his social life.

“Bootleggers”
Edward Hopper, 1925


“’He’s a bootlegger.’” (61)

“’I thought you didn’t if you’ll pardon my―you see, I carry on a little business on the side, a sort of side line, you understand.’” (82)

Hopper’s “Bootleggers” shows a clean, aesthetic version of Gatsby’s criminal activity of choice. The painting uses only a few colors, mostly blue and white. Blue is Gatsby’s color, from his blue lawn to his blue pool, and white is a marker of high class status, from Daisy’s and Jordan’s dresses to Nick’s outfit at Gatsby’s first party to Gatsby’s white marble house. Hopper renders his bootleggers in such a mannered way that they would not look out of place at one of Gatsby’s parties. The bootleggers are not devious or dangerous when safely contained on a boat. They do not roam the streets or peek out from a hidden speakeasy, but conduct their business subtly on the open sea. The house also stands apart from any other structures, set in relief against a dark mass of forest or rock. Altogether, Hopper depicts bootlegging as an understated and isolated activity, not the insidious social problem and extensive criminal enterprise it had become by Gatsby’s time.

Readers only get hints of Gatsby’s trade in the text, but Fitzgerald presents them in a very different manner than Hopper does. Wolfsheim, the face of Gatsby’s criminal undertakings, is a caricature: “A small, flat-nosed Jew… with two fine growths of hair which luxuriated in either nostril,” watching Nick with “tiny eyes in the half-darkness” (69). In addition to its problematic ethnic stereotyping, this description makes Wolfsheim seem like an animal, with errant body hair, disproportional features, and the ability to see in half-darkness. He is a quasi-fantastical figure in a warren of an office, as unreal as Hopper’s painting is straightforward. Nick brushes again with the criminal world when he answers Gatsby’s phone. He hears a rapid, jargon-filled, frantic monologue until he announces Gatsby’s death, and the call ends with a “squawk” (166-7). The fractured communication disorients Nick, and Fitzgerald’s continuation of animal imagery emphasizes how alien Gatsby’s criminal life is to his social life.

“Fish Pond, Orient Bay, Long Island”
Edward Moran, 1876

“To young Gatz, resting on his oars and looking up at the railed deck, that yacht represented all the beauty and glamour in the world.” (100)

“Our eyes lifted over the rose-beds and the hot lawn and the weedy refuse of the dog-days alongshore. Slowly the white wings of the boat moved against the blue cool limit of the sky. Ahead lay the scalloped ocean and the abounding blessed isles.
'There's sport for you,' said Tom, nodding. 'I'd like to be out there with him for about an hour.'” (118)

Edward Hopper&#8217;s “Ground Swell” depicts a very different seascape than “Fish Pond.” This is the sort of sea Gatsby sails with Dan Cody: impossibly wide, clear, and endless. At that point in his life, settling into a new identity and dazzled by wealth, Gatsby sees the sea as a playground rather than a workplace. This shift in perspective foreshadows his incredible spending habits when Nick meets him, throwing grand and expensive parties just to enhance his reputation and lure Daisy across the bay. Hopper&#8217;s depiction of the sea is overwhelmingly blue and white, the colors of leisure in The Great Gatsby. Gatsby&#8217;s blue pool and blue lawn, Daisy&#8217;s and Jordan&#8217;s white dresses, and the “sugar lump” skyline are literally and metaphorically colored from privileged perspectives (68).
For Tom, the image of a man sailing on the idyllic Sound is a masculine activity and an escape from his married life on shore. He asserts his identity and masculinity with athletic, homosocial activities like horseback riding and sailing. Nick registers Tom&#8217;s reappearance in the living room earlier in the novel as “a crunch of leather boots,” and he tries to escape the women&#8217;s talk of romance by taking Nick to the stables (15). The sea is a stage for Tom to perform the role of sportsman, man, and un-cuckolded husband. Hopper&#8217;s clean, optimistic version of the sea reflects this sense of optimism and escape.

“Fish Pond, Orient Bay, Long Island”

Edward Moran, 1876


“To young Gatz, resting on his oars and looking up at the railed deck, that yacht represented all the beauty and glamour in the world.” (100)


“Our eyes lifted over the rose-beds and the hot lawn and the weedy refuse of the dog-days alongshore. Slowly the white wings of the boat moved against the blue cool limit of the sky. Ahead lay the scalloped ocean and the abounding blessed isles.

'There's sport for you,' said Tom, nodding. 'I'd like to be out there with him for about an hour.'” (118)


Edward Hopper’s “Ground Swell” depicts a very different seascape than “Fish Pond.” This is the sort of sea Gatsby sails with Dan Cody: impossibly wide, clear, and endless. At that point in his life, settling into a new identity and dazzled by wealth, Gatsby sees the sea as a playground rather than a workplace. This shift in perspective foreshadows his incredible spending habits when Nick meets him, throwing grand and expensive parties just to enhance his reputation and lure Daisy across the bay. Hopper’s depiction of the sea is overwhelmingly blue and white, the colors of leisure in The Great Gatsby. Gatsby’s blue pool and blue lawn, Daisy’s and Jordan’s white dresses, and the “sugar lump” skyline are literally and metaphorically colored from privileged perspectives (68).

For Tom, the image of a man sailing on the idyllic Sound is a masculine activity and an escape from his married life on shore. He asserts his identity and masculinity with athletic, homosocial activities like horseback riding and sailing. Nick registers Tom’s reappearance in the living room earlier in the novel as “a crunch of leather boots,” and he tries to escape the women’s talk of romance by taking Nick to the stables (15). The sea is a stage for Tom to perform the role of sportsman, man, and un-cuckolded husband. Hopper’s clean, optimistic version of the sea reflects this sense of optimism and escape.

“Death on the Ridge Road”Grant Wood, 1935

“The &#8216;death car&#8217; as the newspapers called it, didn&#8217;t stop; it came out of the gathering darkness, wavered tragically for a moment, and then disappeared around the next bend. Michaelis wasn&#8217;t even sure of its color-he told the first policeman that it was light green.” (137)
“Before me stretched the portentous, menacing road of a new decade.” (135)

This work dates ten years after the publication of The Great Gatsby, and addresses the crisis of modernity which occupies much of the novel&#8217;s attention. Old cars and a blocky modern truck careen toward each other in a distorted rural landscape, symbolizing the clash of the status quo with the m. Modernity crashes into the center of the painting in the form of a colorful, sharp-edged truck which brings impending violence with it. Looming violence, automobiles, and tensions between the established and the modern are particularly relevant to the novel. The painting also combines green, yellow, and red, three important colors in the text. Daisy&#8217;s golden idealism, Gatsby&#8217;s green longing, and red violence cannot exist peacefully together―the intersection of these colors is a crisis point, in the painting and in the novel.
"Death on the Ridge Road" also contains surreal elements. The road curves impossibly, the telephone poles cross the fence, and an improbable storm cuts across the top of the painting. Fitzgerald dips into the surreal, too, bending time and letting his narrative wander. Nick moves from Tom&#8217;s and Myrtle&#8217;s apartment to Mr. McKee&#8217;s bedside to Penn Station in a series of impressionistic flashes of memory just eight lines long (38). Fitzgerald describes how scenes feel as well as how they are, and Wood&#8217;s slightly surreal depiction of the moment before a deadly car crash is an excellent depiction of the same effect.

“Death on the Ridge Road”
Grant Wood, 1935


“The ‘death car’ as the newspapers called it, didn’t stop; it came out of the gathering darkness, wavered tragically for a moment, and then disappeared around the next bend. Michaelis wasn’t even sure of its color-he told the first policeman that it was light green.” (137)

“Before me stretched the portentous, menacing road of a new decade.” (135)

This work dates ten years after the publication of The Great Gatsby, and addresses the crisis of modernity which occupies much of the novel’s attention. Old cars and a blocky modern truck careen toward each other in a distorted rural landscape, symbolizing the clash of the status quo with the m. Modernity crashes into the center of the painting in the form of a colorful, sharp-edged truck which brings impending violence with it. Looming violence, automobiles, and tensions between the established and the modern are particularly relevant to the novel. The painting also combines green, yellow, and red, three important colors in the text. Daisy’s golden idealism, Gatsby’s green longing, and red violence cannot exist peacefully together―the intersection of these colors is a crisis point, in the painting and in the novel.

"Death on the Ridge Road" also contains surreal elements. The road curves impossibly, the telephone poles cross the fence, and an improbable storm cuts across the top of the painting. Fitzgerald dips into the surreal, too, bending time and letting his narrative wander. Nick moves from Tom’s and Myrtle’s apartment to Mr. McKee’s bedside to Penn Station in a series of impressionistic flashes of memory just eight lines long (38). Fitzgerald describes how scenes feel as well as how they are, and Wood’s slightly surreal depiction of the moment before a deadly car crash is an excellent depiction of the same effect.

“View of Toledo”
El Greco (1541-1614)

“Over the great bridge, with the sunlight through the girders making a constant flicker upon the moving cars, with the city rising up across the river in white heaps and sugar lumps all built with a wish out of non-olfactory money. The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.” (68)
Stella&#8217;s painting imagines the Brooklyn Bridge as a conduit between the viewer and the glittering, modern city. Though this painting dates from the late 1930s, its art deco style recalls Gatsby's gilded 1920s. Unlike the photograph displayed earlier in the exhibition, there is no humanity in this version of the bridge. A portrait of a worker in his workplace invites connection, especially when his gaze connects with the camera and therefore the viewer. However, these chaotic shapes and colors resist simplicity. The painting pushes back against unilateral interpretations―it could resemble a stained glass window, or a traditional mask, or some sort of face with glowing eyes and a harsh blue mouth. The borders on the top and bottom edges seem to frame and contain the painting, but the cables of the bridge reach toward viewers to draw them into the city's splendor. The miniature skyline below the bridge is quaint and and unthreatening, but it lies below violent red blocks of color. Stella's version of the Brooklyn Bridge is contradictory, fractured, and highly stylistic.
Though Stella and photographer de Salignac represent the bridge in vastly different ways, both create art from perspectives to which Nick is increasingly privy. Early in the summer, Nick innocently sees the city as a source of unmitigated opportunity and unspoiled beauty. By the close of the novel, he concludes that he has no place in the East at all, least of all New York: “I see now that this has been a story of the West, after all―Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all Westerners, and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly unadaptable to Eastern life” (176). His uncomplicated view of the city cannot hold up to the pressures of the messy, modern kind of life which Nick experiences over the course of the novel. Nor is the city &#8220;built with a wish,&#8221; and photographers like de Salignac will continue to represent laborers and the working class despite the leisure class&#8217;s discomfort for decades to come.
The “non-olfactory money” which Nick credits for the creation of Manhattan will not last. It is the sort of invisible capital Nick trades in the bond office, and possibly the kind of money Gatsby and his cohorts forge. So too is it the symptom of problematic financial practices which will take down the global economy four years after The Great Gatsby's publication. Nick's early impression of an urban utopia becomes impossible to sustain by the end of the novel, and pieces like Stella's “The Brooklyn Bridge” remind viewers that cities necessitate dynamic, multifaceted perspectives.

“View of Toledo”

El Greco (1541-1614)

“Over the great bridge, with the sunlight through the girders making a constant flicker upon the moving cars, with the city rising up across the river in white heaps and sugar lumps all built with a wish out of non-olfactory money. The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.” (68)

Stella’s painting imagines the Brooklyn Bridge as a conduit between the viewer and the glittering, modern city. Though this painting dates from the late 1930s, its art deco style recalls Gatsby's gilded 1920s. Unlike the photograph displayed earlier in the exhibition, there is no humanity in this version of the bridge. A portrait of a worker in his workplace invites connection, especially when his gaze connects with the camera and therefore the viewer. However, these chaotic shapes and colors resist simplicity. The painting pushes back against unilateral interpretations―it could resemble a stained glass window, or a traditional mask, or some sort of face with glowing eyes and a harsh blue mouth. The borders on the top and bottom edges seem to frame and contain the painting, but the cables of the bridge reach toward viewers to draw them into the city's splendor. The miniature skyline below the bridge is quaint and and unthreatening, but it lies below violent red blocks of color. Stella's version of the Brooklyn Bridge is contradictory, fractured, and highly stylistic.

Though Stella and photographer de Salignac represent the bridge in vastly different ways, both create art from perspectives to which Nick is increasingly privy. Early in the summer, Nick innocently sees the city as a source of unmitigated opportunity and unspoiled beauty. By the close of the novel, he concludes that he has no place in the East at all, least of all New York: “I see now that this has been a story of the West, after all―Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all Westerners, and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly unadaptable to Eastern life” (176). His uncomplicated view of the city cannot hold up to the pressures of the messy, modern kind of life which Nick experiences over the course of the novel. Nor is the city “built with a wish,” and photographers like de Salignac will continue to represent laborers and the working class despite the leisure class’s discomfort for decades to come.

The “non-olfactory money” which Nick credits for the creation of Manhattan will not last. It is the sort of invisible capital Nick trades in the bond office, and possibly the kind of money Gatsby and his cohorts forge. So too is it the symptom of problematic financial practices which will take down the global economy four years after The Great Gatsby's publication. Nick's early impression of an urban utopia becomes impossible to sustain by the end of the novel, and pieces like Stella's “The Brooklyn Bridge” remind viewers that cities necessitate dynamic, multifaceted perspectives.

Works Cited

Baigell, Matthew. The American Scene: American Painting of the 1930’s.New York: Praeger, 1974. Print.

Berman, Marshall. All That Is Solid Melts into Air: the Experience of Modernity. New York, N.Y., U.S.A.: Viking Penguin, 1988. Print.

Dodge, William de Leftwich. “Dolphin Bay.” ca. 1915. George P. Tweed Memorial Art Collection, Tweed Museum of Art, University of Minnesota at Duluth. LI Landscapes 147.

Du Bois, Guy Péne. “The Arrivals.” ca. 1918-1919. The Phillips Collection, Washington D.C. ARTstor. Web. 15 April 2012.

El Greco. “View of Toledo.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. ARTstor. Web. 24 April 2012.

"El Greco: Overview." El Greco Tour. National Gallery of Art. Web. 20 Apr. 2012. <http://www.nga.gov/collection/gallery/gg29/gg29-over1.html>.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Scribner, 2004. Print.

Hapke, Laura. Labor’s Canvas: American Working-class History and the WPA Art of the 1930s. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, 2008. Print.

Hopper, Edward. “Bootleggers.” 1925. Currier Gallery of Art, New Hampshire. ARTstor. Web. 26 April 2012.

——————————-“Ground Swell.” 1939. Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. ARTstor. Web. 26 April 2012.

Moran, Edward. “Fish Pond, Orient Bay, Long Island.” 1876. Private collection. LI Landscapes 74.

Pisano, Ronald G. Long Island Landscape Painting, 1820-1920. Boston: Little, Brown and, 1985. Print.

Salignac, Eugene de. “A worker on the Brooklyn Bridge.” 1928. Municipal Archives, NYC Department of Records. Web. 27 April 2012. <http://dft.ba/-2zAx>.

Steichen, Eduard. “Across the Salt Marshes, Huntington.” ca. 1905. Toledo Moseum of Art, Toledo. LI Landscapes 149.

Stella, Joseph. “The Brooklyn Bridge: Variation on an Old Theme.” 1939. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. ARTstor. Web. 27 April 2012.

Wood, Grant. “Death on the Ridge Road.” 1935. ARTstor. Web. 26 April 2012.

Welcome
Works Cited

About:

An art exhibition inspired by F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.

Created by Amanda McLoughlin. Department of English, New York University. 2012.