From Subway Stations to Auction Blocks, An Artist’s Psychologically Penetrating Scenes

An artist, author, and educator, Daniel Greene renders his lifelike portraits, urban landscapes, and still lifes with the storied techniques of Old Masters such as Rembrandt and Velázquez. He is known for his skillful portrayals of public individuals—including Eleanor Roosevelt, Ayn Rand, Clara Barton, and William Randolph Hearst, as well as countless other prominent figures working in government, business, and medicine, among other fields. 

Continually inspired by the city, Greene has depicted New York subway platforms since 1993, most recently with intricately detailed renderings of the mosaic tiles of the Franklin Street, Wall Street, and 116th Street train stations, among others. Though he usually stages scenes with live models, for this series he created studies of models and subway stations separately before merging the two, creating his own original narratives. These works were featured prominently in his 2004 exhibition “Subway Paintings” at the New York Transit Museum, which was the inaugural event of the centennial celebration of Grand Central Station. “Most everyone, residents and visitors alike, has a story about riding the subway. I have kept making them because the architectural structure and decorative aspects of the stations offer an inexhaustible source of inspiration and beauty,” Greene has said

Greene also creates contemporary still lifes, which are noteworthy for their vibrant colors and use of elaborate textiles. Auction houses also provide rich subject matter for the artist, who has captured dynamic scenes of auctioneers shouting at the podium and tensions rising over bidding wars. “I was initially attracted to the variety of characters and the charge of anticipation and desire I experienced at auctions—it became an excellent vehicle for the expression of humanness,” he has commented. Auction houses, like subway stations, provide the backdrop for groups of people in situations that can quickly change from mundane or ordinary to frustrating or chaotic; Greene exposes the characteristics of these sites and their occupants. His works are realist not only in technique, but also in terms of their psychology, as he is able to convey charged environments and suggest the complex realities of his subjects.  

Sola Agustsson 

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