Longchamps Restaurant, Madison Ave., New York City, NY
JN Bartfield Galleries, NY
Private collection, Wyoming
It’s hard to put Winold Reiss in just one box - when he fits in so many. To the Western world, he was a modernist painter whose portraits of Native American subjects are considered some of the finest in the genre, on par with those of Nicolai Fechin and Robert Henri. To others, he was a critically acclaimed muralist, whose public works, including those at the Cincinnati Union Terminal, are still celebrated today. Another aspect of his career, one less talked about, is Reiss’ architectural work and interior design. Much of it started immediately after he landed in New York City from Europe in 1913. So vast is this portion of his career that in The Multicultural Modernism of Winold Reiss, 1886-1953, C. Ford Peatross and Renate Reiss, the artist’s daughter-in-law, list hundreds of restaurants, hotels, lounges and ballrooms where the artist contributed design work, everything from paintings and murals to stairways and lighting fixtures.
Indian Madonna, which hung in the Longchamps restaurant on Madison Avenue in New York City for 20 years, intersects with this portion of Reiss’ career. The artist had been going to Montana and Alberta, Canada, to paint Native American portraits beginning in 1919. Later, in 1928, he was commissioned to paint similar portraits for the Great Northern Railway. As word got out about these stunning images, Reiss paintings were suddenly in high demand in New York City. Dozens of these Native American portraits ended up in Longchamps, the Art Deco restaurant chain that started in 1919. Peatross and Renate Reiss first pin the Longchamps commissions in 1935, with additional restaurants through the mid-1940s. Longchamps had restaurants all over Manhattan (and in Washington, D.C.), each with its own Reiss theme, including “Louis XIV” and “Swiss and abstract modern.” A Mexican theme decorated the inside of the restaurant at Fifth Avenue and 34th Street, inside the Empire State Building. The Native American-themed restaurant was on Madison Avenue and 59th Street. The chain closed in the 1970s, but Reiss’ designs and architectural additions are still being discovered today.
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Please note that the first unframed photo is most accurate for color. Framed photographs are to show the frame and are not color corrected to the painting.
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