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Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Kindred Spirits: Camaraderie, Influence, and Inspiration
Among Artists and Writers in Bohemian New York

By Deborah C. Pollack
Copyright © 2018 All rights reserved by the author.

Augustus Toedteberg, Ada Clare—
died March 4, 1874, drawing, 
Houghton Library, Harvard University, 
Call Number: B MS Thr 158.1.

Greenwich Village’s first wave of bohemian writers of poetry and prose enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with several well-known and obscure artists from roughly 1850–65. The visual arts also affected philosophies and motivations of Bohemia’s leaders. Rivalries and attractions permeated the coterie of enormous talent; yet during this tumultuous period in history they were together—each inspiring the other and bringing out the best of their work, and usually having remarkable fun while accomplishing this.

Manhattan in the mid 1850s was an easily manageable urban environment with a population of just over 500,000, and no high-rises. An abundance of culture in the city thrived, well before the establishment of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and New York Public Library. This stimulating milieu could be found on Lower Broadway, the center for the lively and fine arts. Culture lovers could listen to a concert or see plays at Niblo’s Garden at Broadway and Prince Street, or attend theater at Wallack’s Theater on Broadway near Broome, as well as P. T. Barnum’s American Museum at Broadway and Anne Street. One could also view fine paintings at the National Academy of Design on Broadway and Leonard Streets, the Art Union at 289 Broadway, and the Düsseldorf Gallery on Broadway between Spring and Prince Streets.