The Immigrants, 1973
In front of the entrance to Castle Clinton in Battery Park.
The Immigrants shows a grouping of people from various countries just
arriving in the United States. They stand in a line, possibly waiting for
inspection, and approval to enter the country. Standing together in this manner,
the members of this varied group are tied together by a highly emotional and
daunting common experience. Furthering this impression of the universality of the
immigration experience for those entering the United States, the figures in the
sculpture, although apparently strangers from different places, are connected through
their poses--the outstretched arm of one, for example, touches the shoulder of the next.
The sculpture shows extreme mixed emotions, from the relief of finally stepping
ashore, to the anxiety of facing the unknown. The emotion of the piece is evident
in the poses of the figures as well as in the rough surface of the bronze. This
rough surface also serves to generalize the features of the figures, allowing them
to represent not specific people, but the large numbers of people who entered this
country through the immigration centers of Battery Park.
The sculpture is located just outside Castle Clinton, a structure that from 1855
to 1890 housed New York's immigration center. Over 7 million immigrants passed
through the gates of Castle Clinton into the United States. This period in the
immigration service's history was marred by corruption, however, and in a system
overhaul, the immigration service was moved first to the Barge Office in 1890 and
then to Ellis Island in 1892 . Although sculpted in 1973,
The Immigrants was not placed in Battery Park until ten years later.
Possible discussion themes
Compare the concept of immigration as presented by the
Statue of Liberty, and by The Immigrants.
The Statue of Liberty is an allegorical figure that has come to represent
an idealized concept of immigration, welcoming all that ride into New York Harbor
into the land of the free. The Immigrants shows a more realistic view of
the hardship and emotion endured by immigrants to the United States.
Related art works
The Statue of Liberty.
The Statue of Liberty is visible just steps from The Immigrants.
It has come to be associated with themes of immigration, but it's representation of
these themes is quite different than the representation seen in The Immigrants.
The Four Continents.
Made almost three-quarters of a century before The Immigrants, the
Four Continents is telling of the way in which people in the early 1900s saw the
cultures of the world, and the place of the United States in the world. The
representation is in contrast to that of The Immigrants, which includes
people from some of the same places.
- Gayle, M. & Cohen, M. (1988). The Art Commission and The Municipal Art Society
guide to Manhattan's outdoor sculpture. New York: Prentice Hall Press. p. 150
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