Paterson’s Great Falls and historic factories have inspired great artists since the 18th century. At the same time that recent books and exhibitions are providing fresh insights on Hamilton and Paterson, museum and gallery shows are calling attention to the outstanding Paterson paintings by one of America’s most important twentieth-century artists, Oscar Bluemner. A major show at the Whitney Museum of Art in New York in 2006 featured many Paterson paintings and sketches by this great American modernist. The show included his magnificent painting Expression of a Silktown, New Jersey (Paterson Centre) that is in the collection of the New Jersey State Museum. The New York Times, the New Yorker, and leading American art journals have featured Bluemner’s large colorful paintings and powerful charcoal drawings of Paterson silk mills, other factories, and the vibrating river waters below the Great Falls.
Another extraordinary Bluemner Paterson painting, Jersey Silkmills, appeared on the cover of the Smithsonian American Art Museum journal, American Art. Studies for this striking painting of glowing red Paterson silk mills are in the Oscar Bluemner papers in the Smithsonian Institution Archives of American Art.
The graphic artist Ben Shahn produced a number of works inspired by Paterson’s factories including a painting Shahn gave to the poet William Carlos Williams. Photographer George Tice produced two books of his photographs of the Great Falls, old mills, and other Paterson scenes—all of which were exhibited at major shows devoted to his Paterson photographs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and other museums.