Lawson | Low Tide

Ernest Lawson (American, born Canada, 1873-1939)
Low Tide (c. 1898)
Oil on canvas, 20 x 28"
Louise Crombie Beach Memorial Fund, 1933.37
Lawson constructed his paintings of horizontal bands denoting land, water, and sky. Often there is a suggestion that someone just left the scene, as with the rowboat in the foreground of this canvas.

Lawson made this painting the same year he settled in the Washington Heights neighborhood of upper Manhattan. Called a “poet of the commonplace of Nature,” the artist found beauty in unlikely places. He depicted the semi-industrial areas of New York and the lower Hudson River at the turn of the twentieth century and focused on the influence of humans on the landscape.

Encroaching on Wetlands
Northeastern coastal cities initially sprawled out over low terraces composed of glacially washed sand and gravel. Beyond the edge of those terrace were the tidal marshes of a rising postglacial sea. The acreage of this soft, sodden land was too valuable as real estate to leave untouched. So, enormous patches of coastal marsh were filled with stronger sediment hauled in from elsewhere to create more urban land. Symbolically, this type of land conversion includes our national capital of Washington D.C., much of which may eventually be submerged as sea levels rise from ice sheet melt and volume expansion due to warming.