City Life. Joseph Delaney

City Life (1938), by Joseph Delaney (1904-1991), is paired with two pieces of music. Which do you prefer, “Hurricane,” from George Gershwin’s (1898-1937) Catfish Row Suite (1936) or “He Used to Be Your Man But He’s My Man Now” by Edith Wilson And Johnny Dunns Original Jazz Hounds?
We want to hear from you! Scroll down to Leave a Reply and let us know which pairing you prefer.

City Life and “Hurricane,” from George Gershwin’s (1898-1937) Catfish Row Suite
This pairing and commentary are by Rachel Yoder.

Click here for a recording of “Hurricane.” 

Performed by Leonard Slatkin and the St. Louis Symphony.

Chimes snap our eyes to the bright, solitary streetlight, and the following solo guides us through the entire scene. As the instrumentation thickens, so our eyes quicken and discover a narrative. We see two dark-skinned people in a sea of white faces and begin to sense racial tension, while French horns bombastically take over a confused chaos of flutes, clarinets, oboes, and the entire string section.

Joseph Delaney’s 1938 oil painting City Life portrays the lively bustle of Times Square. Meanwhile, George Gershwin’s “Hurricane” from his 1936 suite “Catfish Row” guides its audience from reflection to wild tension. Together, the two works of art express one mood of early 20th-century America.

To read Rachel’s essay click here.

For a contrasting experience listen to “He Used to Be Your Man But He’s My Man Now” by Edith Wilson And Johnny Dunns Original Jazz Hounds, Live from the Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain
This pairing and commentary are by Liz Kovalchuk

Click here for Edith Wilson’s performance.

Recording courtesy of Free Music Archive.

Listening to “He Used to Be Your Man But He’s My Man Now” while looking at City Life takes you back to a time when rebellion was in the air and being cool was a new and exciting concept. Enjoy and appreciate values from a time when urbanization was in its initial development. Both Joseph Delaney and Edith Wilson employ compositional layers as an elegant means of exhibiting the trendy innovative stylizations of the 1920s. Delaney utilizes avant-garde thick paintbrush strokes while capitalizing on compositional techniques, such as suggesting diagonals, that create a balanced frame capturing excitement in a sophisticated manner. Wilson similarly sings in a contemporary jazz quintet while gracefully portraying a racy subject matter. Both works capture the essence of ideals and style of life the in 1920s New York City.

To read Liz’s essay click here.


12 thoughts on “City Life. Joseph Delaney

  1. I really enjoy this painting. It captures the essence of time in the city that never sleeps. Time makes life feel like a blur in this painting, like it’s just slipping by. He used to be your man but hes my man now really helps take you to the time and feel the excitement that such innovation and progress made people feel in the turn of the century new york. I think One O’Clock Jump – Count Basie would also pair up nice with this painting.

  2. Kara Harris says:

    This painting and the piece of music “He use to be my man…” seems to compliment each other than “Hurricane”. The painting has a old school jazz vibe to it when the world was starting to industrialize more and new things, including music, seem to be popping up like jazz. This painting also shows of a busy night in a city. Where it does seem like a hurricane at time trying to get through it, but at the same time the way everything is lit up and everyone is out and about give me a more jazz sense. I like the pairing with “He use to be my man…” because it in that age where jazz was everywhere and people at night like going to bars to relax and hear music like this. It even works better because you can hear the silverware clicking like if it was in a bar or even restaurant. One piece of music I can also could be paired with this painting is Four by Miles Davis. It has a upbeat tune that and those down beats it makes like you are something new and amazing around every conner.

  3. Emily Mundell says:

    I really enjoy the piece “Hurricane” while I am starring at this painting because it really portrays the time period of the Big Apple, when this was created. Which in fact was the Great Depression Time period. It signifies the darkness and sadness that these people went through but throughout the piece it gets brighter in sound signifying coming out of this time period and happiness.

  4. Grant Ingalls says:

    While listening to “Hurricane” and looking at this piece of art, I found that different parts of “Hurricane” match up better with the painting than other parts do. For instance, towards the beginning, there’s a very flowing piece of music with strings and woodwinds playing simultaneously, and I believe that that’s what city life feels like. However, the parts of the song with more tension do not portray what city life feels like in my opinion. I know that this painting was made during the Great Depression, and there is a point made of two faces that are a different race than the rest of them, but that isn’t the focal point of the painting to me. The message isn’t one of economic or racial struggle; this painting simply is trying to describe city life.

  5. Emily Neeser says:

    I like how in the beginning of hurricane the chimes would symbolize city lights coming on at night, but then it started to sound like springtime in Bambi’s forest world. I think he’s not your man… is a better piece of music for this artwork because it captures the hustle and bustle of living in the big city.

  6. Noah Gilliom says:

    I believe that the pairing with “he used to be your man but he is my man now” has a good feel to it. When I see this picture I think of a busy city and and old time look at it. Both pieces give off that same vibe. I think another good pairing would be with Lionel Hampton’s “the nearness of you”.

  7. Courtney Klug says:

    I really like the pairing of City Life and “He used to be my man…” I like this pairing because when i hear this piece of music I think of a night club in New York City and in this painting I see night time New York City on a Saturday night in the 1950s. During this time music like “He used to be my man..” was very popular. This kind of music made people want to get up and dance; in the painting i see people moving around, possibly dancing, just in general having a good time. The painting has many dark colors, then you can see some vibrant colors and I think the bright colors against the dark show that even though its night time there is so much going on and everyone is out and about having a great time on a Saturday night.

  8. Rachel Harvey says:

    I think both selections of music for this piece are very fitting. They both bring to mind busy city life which reflects the hectic look of the painting. Perhaps the jazz piece brings to mind more of the clubbing social side of the city than the other. Conversely, “Hurricane” makes one think of the hustle and bustle of walking down a crowded street. Both were excellent choices.

  9. Grant Canady says:

    This picture seems to be very clustered. It feels like everyone is trying to get their daily things done, and i like the “Hurricane” to go along with it. The music really shows how everyone is moving at their own pace. I cant think of any other types of music to go along with this.

  10. Matheu DeWitt says:

    I really enjoyed the painting being paired with Hurricane. It lets me see the bells ringing and people walking in the streets. This is a wonderful pairing where the beginning of the music matches what I can imagine happening in the painting. In my opinion, I can not name any piece of music better suited to pair with this painting.

  11. Reagan Pender says:

    I think the piece “He used to be your man…” is a better fit for this painting. I believe that it captures the hustle and bustle of living in a big city and that is what is being portrayed in the work of art. The song even sounds like it is a recording of a record which pairs it even better with the piece of art. A good piece of music that could accompany this work of art is “New York New York” sung by Frank Sinatra.

  12. Grant Houston says:

    The painting really depicts the new kind of commotion and lifestyle after the Great Depression. People went out to dance and began to socialize at bars, clubs, and restaurants. Personally, I prefer the music choice of Edith Wilson, rather than Gershwin. I feel that the jazz sound resembles more of a typical night life in the late 1930’s. Also, the lyrics of the music shows the new lifestyle of normal Americans. If I were to choose another piece of music to pair with the painting, I would choose Strangers In the Night by Frank Sinatra.

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