1897 - 1992
Summer in the City

Oil on canvas, signed lower left
Image size: 50 x 34 inches (127 x 86.25 cm)
Hand made contemporary style frame


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This colourful painting depicts a group of swimmers as they throw themselves from a pier, into a cooling nearby body of water. Gurr has forever captured this movement, freezing these bodies in the air, mid-jump, with a constant promise that they will soon splash through the surface of the water below.

Although bold and clearly quite abstract in nature, the details of this artwork are charming – a small child sits on the pier, already wrapped in a towel after his own watery dip. Note too how the nearest diver holds their nose with one hand, in an attempt to stop the water going in as they submerge.

Lena Gurr had a prolific career in which she painted landscape scenes and still lifes but her most noted works are ones such as these, showing everyday city scenes that were laced with social commentary. Indeed, Gurr’s noted that her artwork always aimed to show “the joys and sorrows of everyday life.” During the course of her career Gurr’s compositions retained emotional content as they evolved from a naturalistic to a semi-abstract cubist style. Discussing this trend, she once told an interviewer that as her work tended toward increasing abstraction she believed it nonetheless “must have some kind of human depth to it.”


Lena Gurr 

Lena Gurr, born in Brooklyn in 1897, studied at the Brooklyn Training School for Teachers, the Educational Alliance Art School, the Arts Students League with John Sloan, and with Maurice Sterne in Paris as well as in Mentone and Nice, France.

Gurr was a member of the Artists League of America, the National Association of Women Artists, the New York Society of Women Artists, the Brooklyn Society of Artists, Audubon Artists and the American Artists Congress. She exhibited in numerous exhibitions held by these organisations as well as the Whitney Studio Club, National Academy of Design, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Brooklyn Museum, and the 1939 World’s Fair.

Her work is included in the collections of the Biro-Bidjan Museum, Russia and the Library of Congress, where she has been selected as a “Curator’s Choice” in the Smithsonian Archives of American Art. In addition to her career as a painter, lithographer and serigrapher, she also taught art in the New York City public school system. She had three solo exhibitions at the ACA Gallery in 1935, 1939 and 1945, and a retrospective in 1963.

Notable among Gurr’s colleagues – many of them WPA artists – were Mary Cecil Allen, Mary Ascher, Dorothy Block, Jean Antoine DeMarco, Emma Ehrenreich, Clara Fasano, Ralph Fabri, Juliana Force, Minna Harkavy, Rockwell Kent, Karl Knaths, Louis Lozowick, Ross and Dorothy Moffett, John von Wicht and Lynd Ward.