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Lesser Ury

* 1861 – † 1931

Nächtliche Straßenszene (Nocturnal Street Scene)

Oil on canvas mounted on board

Signed at bottom left: L. Ury.

Lesser Ury captured the urbane life of the big city in his works as did almost no other painter of that era. Whether they are coffeehouse scenes or motifs drawn from the great European capitals of Paris, London and Berlin, his paintings always convey the specific atmosphere of the place and the zeitgeist suffusing it. This is also true of our painting dating from the 1920s, which transports us to a rainy night on the streets of Berlin. The whole scene is bathed in the whitish-yellow light coming from the street lamps and large, brightly lit display windows, which is reflected in the wet street and dark, wet automobile. Passers-by huddled under umbrellas scurry along the pavement flanking the busy road. The woman wearing a purple coat appears to be marching straight towards us, and the frontal view of her, silhouetted against the shop window and the contrasting automobile, makes for a sense of immediacy and proximity. This feeling is further amplified by the fact that the street in this work, unusually for this artist, has no vanishing point with which to create a sense of depth. Only in the diffuse light of the rainy night in the right half of the painting is there any suggestion of another street. Lesser Ury frequently chose small-format supports for his city impressions of the 1920s. It was for this same purpose that he had a special paint box made that served him as a palette, easel and paint tube receptacle rolled into one.1 Ury applies his paint as an unmixed impasto, deliberately blurring the contours as if seen through the rain. The hustle and bustle of the city and the sense of dynamism generated by the latest technical advances of electric lighting and motorized traffic make this a very vibrant piece.

The painting is listed in Dr. Sibylle Gross’s catalogue of Lesser Ury’s paintings, pastels, gouaches, and watercolours.

  1. Schlögl, Herrmann and Schwarz, Karl, Lesser Ury. Zauber des Lichts, Berlin 1995, p. 79.

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