Subway, 1934, oil on canvas by Lily Furedi


In this painting Lily Furedi boldly did something that few dare to do: she looked at people on the subway. She took the viewpoint of a seated rider gazing down the car at her fellow passengers. The Hungarian-born artist knew of the subway riders' customary avoidance of staring at one’s fellow riders; most people in her painting keep to themselves by hiding behind a magazine or newspaper, or by sleeping. Those who violate the unwritten rule do so furtively. A woman takes a quiet sidelong glance at the newspaper read by the man next to her, while a man steals a peek at a young woman applying lipstick. Only two women in the foreground, who obviously know each other, dare to look directly at each other as they talk companionably.


Furedi takes a friendly interest in her fellow subway riders, portraying them sympathetically. She focuses particularly on a musician who has fallen asleep in his formal working clothes, holding his violin case. The artist would have identified with such a New York musician because her father, Samuel Furedi, was a professional cellist.

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Taken on April 18, 2009