m  a  r  k    e  r  i  c  k  s  o  n    p  a  i  n  t  i  n  g  s

f  a  m  i  l  y    a  r  t

My grandmother Blanche Rose (Nathan) Hesslein in Greenwich Village exhibiting her paintings in the 1940s. Photographed by my mother Bernice Lane (Hesslein) Erickson on MacDougal Street at Waverly Place on the edge of Washington Square Park.

Blanche used the crate to bring her smaller paintings to the city from Brooklyn. So it became a convenient bench for the days exhibition. One of my favorite photographs of her, who often inspired as i watched her paint and draw as I was growing up. Blanche was a fantastic grandmother.

There is significant family painting history in Greenwich Village, where my grandmother, Blanche (Nathan) Hesslein and my mother, Bernice (Erickson) Hesslein painted in Washington Square Park in the 1920's through 1950s.

All the work in this series of photos sold in time or at the time shown. My grandmother had a list of all the sales she made for herself and my mother, sometimes writing in pencil over the painting image of the photograph. The paintings were bought by collectors, passerby's and galleries on the east coast. I recall my grandmother telling me, at the time that the paintings sold for $50 - $500 each, depending on size and imagery.

"A great sum at the time," she would say.

All the photographs from this period are in black and white and all have an unique impact from that time. Some are from the Depression era and in some ways you can feel the darkness. By the late 1940s & 1950s New York City was beginning to be the center of the art world and city painters were searching for their voices and their own particular style.

Many of these photographs were shot in and around MacDougal Street and MacDougal Alley in Greenwich Village, a favorite atmosphere for them to work. They displayed their paintings in exhibitions around the park and streets of the Village. Both often worked together in a shared studio on MacDougal Alley in the 1930s through the 1950s.

Blanche and Bernice spent considerable time painting outdoors in the lush park with trees swaying and birds flying in the middle of that public square in New York City. MacDougal Alley is a dead-end off MacDougal Street, between Waverly Place and West 8th Street. The Alley was established in 1883 and from 1949 to 1950 Jackson Pollock lived at Number 9 in the alley. MacDougal Alley was the final Manhattan streets lit by gas lamps.

Blanche Hesslein
Magnolia 1949
oil on canvas


Click to view a High Resolution image

Mark Erickson 2017 All rights reserved.

This copyrighted material may not be republished without permission.
Contact via Email @ Mark Erickson or visit his website @
Links are encouraged.

Thanks to Nathan Howland for restoration of this photograph.
Contact him at DianaAndNathan@Virginmedia.com
if you ever need his fine services.

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