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The Ohrbach Paintings of New York City

Essay by Timothy Taubes

New York City: 1945.

The center of gravity for world affairs has shifted after a desperate and monumental struggle. For six years it was contested; where would the center be- Paris? London? Berlin?  It would fall upon New York to take center stage in the new world order.

The old order was decimated by World War Two. The new world order was born. America’s budding industrial infrastructure found fertile ground on which to bloom. America came out of the depression when American industry went to war, and America came out of the war an industrial, economic, and military colossus.

George Washington Bridge, 1945, oil on canvas, 24 x 20 in.Frederic_Taubes_About_The_Artist___Essay_-_Travelogue_Still_Life_Globe.html

World War Two served as a national adhesive. Prior to the war, America was still a country of regions and separatism. The deep South lived in the lull of de facto segregation. New England was a hot-bed of egalitarian reactionaries. The Southwest was a wasteland pocketed by oases. The war unified these regions behind a common cause.

New York became the proud symbol of a nation; a nation that was capable of great accomplishments, secure in its financial institutions, and rich in its cultural and ethnic diversity. In 1945, 10 artists would be commissioned to paint a portrait of the new seat of  power. From the glinting steel and polished granite we may reflect upon whether the promise of a better world was delivered.

—  Timothy Taubes

Art Digest

In 1945, Ohrbach’s Department store commissioned Frederic Taubes and other leading American artists to create full color oil paintings for the Ohrbach Collection. The originals were to “picture the greatness and the startling beauty that is New York.”


The latest art-industry commission is a group of pictures which will depict “New York- Drama City of the World,” to be painted for Ohrbach’s department store by ten artists. Above are Georges Schreiber, Thomas Benton and Frederic Taubes discussing plans for the collection with Jerome K. Ohrbach (second from left), vice-president of the store. Other participating artists are Peter Hurd, Fletcher Martin, Paul Sample, Lawrence Beall Smith, Adolf Dehn, Bernard Lamotte, and George Grosz. The project was arranged through Associated American Artists.”

Central Park Towers

Ohrbach’s Advertisement  (placement unknown)

Above: A newsprint reproduction of Central Park Towers, one of Taubes’ oil paintings for this series

The New York Daily News

Ohrbach’s Advertisement,  November 19, 1945

Above:  Main Street, New York by Frederic Taubes

A reproduction of a page from the November 19, 1945 edition of The New York Daily News, showing the Ohrbach’s advertisment titled “New York, Wonder City of the World.” It featured a black and white newspaper reproduction of Frederic Taubes’ original oil painting “Main Street, New York.” The advertisement describes Taubes’ painting as depicting “the majestic architecture of Fifth Avenue.” The copy below the artwork reads:

“Fifth Avenue... world-renowned street of parades and tumultuous receptions for the world’s great men, of excited acclaim for its heroes... street of soaring concrete fashioned into magnificent architecture... street of the Empire State Building and Radio City... street of churches of all faiths... street of the world’s loveliest women, dressed in the smartest clothes.

The world’s smartest women are more than fashion-wise. They’re dollar-wise too. That’s why they constantly parade off Fifth Avenue into Ohrbach’s. With its policy of “A Business in Millions... A Profit in Pennies”, Ohrbach’s gives smartness its double-meaning for New York women — style and value in one neatly wrapped package.”


Ohrbachs Department Store commissioned Taubes and other noted artists to create paintings in 1945 depicting

New York

Ohrbach Paintings
New York City


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