Central Park, New York, 1961

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

September 1961: Three women keep cool during a heat wave by moving a park bench into the water in Central Park, New York. (Photo by Keystone Features/Getty Images)

September 1961: Three women keep cool during a heat wave by moving a park bench into the water in Central Park, New York. (Photo by Keystone Features/Getty Images)

Central Park is an urban park in middle-upper Manhattan, within New York City.
Between 1821 and 1855, New York City nearly quadrupled in population. As the city expanded northward up Manhattan, people were drawn to the few existing open spaces, mainly cemeteries, to get away from the noise and chaotic life in the city.
New York City’s need for a great public park was resounded by the famed poet and editor of the Evening Post, William Cullen Bryant, as well as by the first American landscape architect, Andrew Jackson Downing (1815–1852), who predicted and began to publicize the city’s need for a public park in 1844.
A stylish place for open-air driving, similar to Paris’ Bois de Boulogne or London’s Hyde Park, was felt to be needed by many influential New Yorkers and in 1853 the New York legislature settled upon a 700-acre (280 ha) area from 59th to 106th Streets for the creation of the Park, at a cost of more than US$5 million for the land alone.
The Park was established in 1857 on 778 acres (315 ha) of city-owned land and a Central Park Commission held a landscape design contest. In 1858, Frederick Law Olmsted (1822–1903) and Calvert Vaux (1824–1895), a landscape architect and an architect respectively, won the design competition, to improve and expand the park, with a plan they titled the “Greensward Plan”.
Andrew Jackson Downing was friend and mentor to Olmsted, and Vaux was his architect collaborator. After Downing died in July 1852, Olmsted and Vaux entered the Central Park design competition together. Vaux had invited the less experienced Olmsted to participate in the design competition with him, having been impressed with Olmsted’s theories and political contacts. The design of Central Park embodies Olmsted’s social consciousness and commitment to egalitarian ideals. Influenced by Downing and his own observations regarding social class in England, China, and the American South, Olmsted believed that the common green space must always be equally accessible to all citizens, and was to be defended against private encroachment. This principle is now fundamental to the idea of a “public park”, but was not assumed as necessary then. Olmsted’s tenure as park commissioner in New York was a long struggle to preserve that idea.
Construction began in 1858 and the park’s first area was opened to the public in the winter of the same year. Construction continued during the American Civil War farther north, and was expanded to its current size of 843 acres (341 ha) in 1873.
Central Park was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1962.
Today, the park is maintained by the Central Park Conservancy, a private, not-for-profit organization that manages the park under a contract with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.
While planting and land form in much of the park appear natural, it is in fact almost entirely landscaped. The park contains several natural-looking lakes and ponds that have been created artificially, extensive walking tracks, bridle paths, two ice-skating rinks (one of which is a swimming pool in July and August), the Central Park Zoo, the Central Park Conservatory Garden, a wildlife sanctuary, a large area of natural woods, a 106-acre (43 ha) billion-gallon reservoir with an encircling running track, and an outdoor amphitheater, the Delacorte Theater, which hosts the “Shakespeare in the Park” summer festivals. Indoor attractions include Belvedere Castle with its nature center, the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre, and the historic Carousel. In addition there are seven major lawns, the “meadows”, and many minor grassy areas; some of them are used for informal or team sports and some set aside as quiet areas; there are a number of enclosed playgrounds for children. The 6 miles (9.7 km) of drives within the park are used by joggers, cyclists, skateboarders, and inline skaters, especially when automobile traffic is prohibited, on weekends and in the evenings after 7:00 pm. The park has its own NYPD precinct, the Central Park Precinct, which employs both regular police and auxiliary officers. In 2005, safety measures held the number of crimes in the park to fewer than one hundred per year (down from approximately 1,000 in the early 1980s).
Central Park’s size and cultural position, has served as a model for many urban parks. The park, which receives approximately 35 million visitors annually, is the most visited urban park in the United States. It is also one of the most filmed locations in the world.
Advise and Consent is a 1959 political novel by Allen Drury (1918–1998) that explores the United States Senate confirmation of controversial Secretary of State nominee Robert Leffingwell, who is a former member of the Communist Party. The novel spent 102 weeks on The New York Times Best Seller list, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1960 and was adapted into a successful 1962 film starring Henry Fonda.
Sources/More to Read:
Wikipedia: Central Park
Wikipedia: Andrew Jackson Downing
Wikipedia: Frederick Law Olmsted
Wikipedia: Calvert Vaux
Central Park Conservancy
Wikipedia: Advise and Consent
Wikipedia: Allen Drury

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William Butler Yeats, by Alice Boughton, 1903

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

William Butler Yeats, 1903 (Alice Boughton / William Michael Murphy Collection?)

William Butler Yeats, 1903 (Alice Boughton / William Michael Murphy Collection?)

William Butler Yeats (1865–1939) was an Irish poet and one of the foremost figures of 20th-century literature.
He was born in Sandymount, Ireland and educated there and in London. Yeats published his first works in the Dublin University Review in 1885 while a student at Dublin’s Metropolitan School of Art. Following the publication of his poems, he soon abandoned art school for other pursuits.
After returning to London in the late 1880s, Yeats met writers Oscar Wilde, Lionel Johnson and George Bernard Shaw. He also became acquainted with Maud Gonne, a supporter of Irish independence. This revolutionary woman served as a muse for Yeats for years. He even proposed marriage to her several times, but she turned him down. Around this time, Yeats founded the Rhymers’ Club poetry group with Ernest Rhys. He also joined the Order of the Golden Dawn, an organization that explored topics related to the occult and mysticism. While he was fascinated with otherworldly elements, Yeats’s interest in Ireland, especially its folktales, fueled much of his output. Those topics feature in the first phase of his work, which lasted roughly until the turn of the 20th century. From 1900, Yeats’s poetry grew more physical and realistic. He largely renounced the transcendental beliefs of his youth, though he remained preoccupied with physical and spiritual masks, as well as with cyclical theories of life.
In addition to his poetry, Yeats devoted significant creative energy to writing plays. Yeats was a driving force behind the Irish Literary Revival and, along with Lady Gregory, Edward Martyn, and others, founded the Abbey Theatre, where he served as its chief during its early years.
Yeats married Georgie Hyde-Lees in 1917, and they soon had daughter Anne and son William Michael. Then he became a political figure in the new Irish Free State, serving as a senator for six years beginning in 1922.
In 1923, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature as the first Irishman so honoured for what the Nobel Committee described as “inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation”.
Yeats continued to write until his death. Some of his important later works include The Wild Swans at Coole (1917), The Tower (1928) and Words for Music Perhaps and Other Poems (1932). Yeats passed away on January 28, 1939, in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France. He is remembered as one of the most significant modern poets of all time.
Alice Boughton (1866–1943) was an early 20th-century American photographer known for her photographs of many literary and theatrical figures of her time. She was a Fellow of Alfred Stieglitz’s Photo-Secession, a circle of highly creative and influential photographers whose artistic efforts succeeded in raising photography to a fine art form.
Boughton became one of the most distinguished portrait photographers of New York, although she did many landscapes in US and Europe. She produced studies of children, as well as female nudes in allegorical or natural settings. Among her more famous works are portraits of Eugene O’Neill, Albert Pinkham Ryder, George Arliss and Robert Louis Stevenson. Her works are in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the British National Portrait Gallery, the U.S. National Portrait Gallery, the George Eastman House and other important museums.
Sources / More to Read:
Wikipedia: W. B. Yeats
Biography.com: W. B. Yeats
Wikipedia: Alice Boughton

George Bernard Shaw, 1889

160 years since the birth of George Bernard Shaw

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

George Bernard Shaw in 1889

George Bernard Shaw in 1889 (Berg Collection/The New York Public Library)

George Bernard Shaw (26 July 1856 – 2 November 1950), known at his insistence simply as Bernard Shaw, was an Irish playwright, critic and polemicist whose influence on Western theatre, culture and politics extended from the 1880s to his death and beyond. He wrote more than sixty plays, with a range incorporating both contemporary satire and historical allegory. In 1925 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Born in Dublin, Shaw moved to London in 1876, where he struggled to establish himself as a writer and novelist, and embarked on a rigorous process of self-education. By the mid-1880s he had become a respected theatre and music critic.

“George Bernard Shaw… has a fund of dry Irish humour that is simply irresistible. He is a clever writer and speaker – is the grossest flatterer I ever met, is horribly untrustworthy as he repeats everything he hears, and does not always stick to the truth, and is very plain like a long corpse with dead white face – sandy sleek hair, and a loathsome small straggly beard, and yet is one of the most fascinating men I ever met.”
Edith Nesbit, letter to Ada Breakell – 19th August, 1884

Following a political awakening, he joined the gradualist Fabian Society (a British socialist organisation whose purpose is to advance the principles of Democratic Socialism via gradualist and reformist effort in democracies, rather than by revolutionary overthrow) and became its most prominent pamphleteer.
Shaw had been writing plays for years before his first public success, Arms and the Man in 1894. Influenced by Henrik Ibsen, he sought to introduce a new realism into English-language drama, using his plays as vehicles to disseminate his political, social and religious ideas. By the early twentieth century his reputation as a dramatist was secured with a series of critical and popular successes.
Shaw’s expressed views were often contentious; he promoted eugenics and alphabet reform, and opposed vaccination and organised religion. He courted unpopularity by denouncing both sides in the First World War as equally culpable, and although not a republican, castigated British policy on Ireland in the postwar period. These stances had no lasting effect on his standing or productivity as a dramatist; the inter-war years saw a series of often ambitious plays, which achieved varying degrees of popular success.
In 1938 he provided the screenplay for a filmed version of Pygmalion for which he received an Oscar Academy Award.
In the final decade of his life he made fewer public statements, but continued to write prolifically until shortly before his death, aged ninety-four, having refused all state honours including the Order of Merit in 1946.
Sources/More to Read:
Wikipedia: George Bernard Shaw
Wikipedia: Fabian Society
Gutenberg: E-Books by Bernard Shaw
Spartacus Educational: George Bernard Shaw
New York Public Library
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Castro, Sartre and de Beauvoir, Cuba, 1960

Colorization & Restoration by Manos Athanasiadis

Fidel Castro, Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir with Celia Sanchez and Juan Arcocha in the Cienaga de Zapata, Cuba. (Photo by Alberto Korda) October 1960

Fidel Castro (middle), Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir (front) with Juan Arcocha (left) and Celia Sanchez (behind) cruising the Cienaga de Zapata, Cuba in October 1960 (Photo by Alberto Korda)

Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz (born August 13, 1926) is a Cuban politician and revolutionary who served as Prime Minister of the Republic of Cuba from 1959 to 1976 and then President from 1976 to 2008. Politically a Marxist–Leninist and Cuban nationalist, he also served as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from 1961 until 2011. Under his administration Cuba became a one-party socialist state; industry and business were nationalized, and state socialist reforms were implemented throughout society. Internationally, Castro was the Secretary-General of the Non-Aligned Movement from 1979 to 1983 and from 2006 to 2008.
Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre (1905-1980) was a French philosopher, playwright, novelist, political activist, biographer, and literary critic. He was one of the key figures in the philosophy of existentialism and phenomenology, and one of the leading figures in 20th-century French philosophy and Marxism. His work has also influenced sociology, critical theory, post-colonial theory, and literary studies, and continues to influence these disciplines. Sartre has also been noted for his open relationship with the prominent feminist theorist Simone de Beauvoir.
He was awarded the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature but refused it, saying that he always declined official honours and that “a writer should not allow himself to be turned into an institution”.
Simone Lucie Ernestine Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir (1908-1986), was a French writer, intellectual, existentialist philosopher, political activist, feminist and social theorist. Though she did not consider herself a philosopher, she had a significant influence on both feminist existentialism and feminist theory. De Beauvoir wrote novels, essays, biographies, autobiography and monographs on philosophy, politics and social issues. She is known for her 1949 treatise “The Second Sex”, a detailed analysis of women’s oppression and a foundational tract of contemporary feminism; and for her novels, including “She Came to Stay” and “The Mandarins”. She is also known for her open relationship with French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre.
Alberto Diaz Gutiérrez, better known as Alberto Korda (1928-2001) was a Cuban photographer, remembered for his famous image “Guerrillero Heroico” of Argentine Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara.
Juan Arcocha (1927-2010) was a Cuban intellectual; lawyer, writer, journalist, translator and interpreter. He wrote numerous novels that have been translated into several languages.
Celia Sánchez Manduley (1920–1980) was a Cuban revolutionary, politician, researcher and archivist. She was a close friend of Fidel Castro. Her face appears in the watermark on Cuban peso banknotes.
–  Excerpts from Eugene Wolters’ article in Critical Theory
In 1960, during the afterglow of the Cuban revolution, Simone de Beauvoir, the famous feminist philosopher took a trip with her long-time companion Sartre to Havana. They were part of a larger flock of leftist intellectuals who were invited to Cuba to attend cultural congresses. When they arrived in February, they met with Che Guevara and talked for hours. Photos were taken by Cuban photographer Alberto Korda. Korda is often known for his iconic photo of Che that has since become the basis for the image plastered on t-shirts, buttons and posters. Incidentally, that image shares the same reel of film as many images featuring Sartre and de Beauvoir in Havana.
De Beauvoir later wrote: “Well-known performers danced or sang in the squares to swell the fund; pretty girls in their carnival fancy dresses, led by a band, went through the streets making collections.”It’s the honeymoon of the Revolution,” Sartre said to me. No machinery, no bureaucracy, but a direct contact between leaders and people, and a mass of seething and slightly confused hopes. It wouldn’t last forever, but it was a comforting sight. For the first time in our lives, we were witnessing happiness that had been attained by violence.”
Later that year in October, Sartre and de Beauvoir returned to Cuba, but were somewhat disappointed. Fidel invited Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir to visit Cuba again, and they did, but this time they weren’t so entranced. “Havana had changed; no more nightclubs, no more gambling, and no more American tourists; in the half empty Nacional Hotel, some very young members of the militia, boys and girls, were holding a conference. On every side, in the streets, the militia was drilling,” de Beauvoir wrote. The atmosphere was tense with rumors of invasion, and a notable air of repressive uniformity was seeping into Cuban life. When Sartre and de Beauvoir asked workers at clothing mill how their lives had benefited from the revolution, a union leader quickly stepped forward to speak on their behalf, parroting the government’s dogma.
Later, Sartre’s relation with Castro soured. In 1971, after Sartre had taken up the case of the imprisoned Cuban poet Herberto Padilla, he found himself being denounced by his erstwhile comrade Castro as being among the “bourgeois liberal gentleman…two bit agents of colonialism…agents of the CIA and intelligence services of imperialism” who had dared to criticize Cuba. Sartre responded with a plea to Castro to ‘spare Cuba the dogmatic obscurantism, the cultural xenophobia and the repressive system which Stalinism imposed in the socialist countries.
Sources/More to Read:
Critical Theory: Incredible Candid Photos of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir in Cuba
Wikipedia: Fidel Castro
Wikipedia: Jean-Paul Sartre
Wikipedia: Simone de Beauvoir
Wikipedia: Alberto Korda
Wikipedia: Juan Arcocha
Wikipedia: Celia Sánchez