A Hazy Morning in December by Alexander John Drysdale

A Hazy Morning in December by Alexander John Drysdale

A prolific painter, Alexander John Drysdale came to New Orleans in 1903

Alexander John Drysdale

Alexander John Drysdale’s A Hazy Morning in December

Painted in 1913, this work presents a scene along the Mississippi River at New Orleans. Given the perspective and the curve in the river, it’s likely Drysdale stood on the dock of a wharf uptown. A ship awaits the day’s loading/unloading. A tugboat travels upriver, managing the currents. The view looks toward the French Quarter and the Third District. He captures the blurry, hazy, smoky, not-romantic vibe of the working riverfront.

The Artist

Born in 1870, Alexander John Drysdale was educated in New York City. He began painting professionally when he came to New Orleans in 1903. From Wikipedia:

The start of his professional life as an artist coincided with his move to New Orleans in 1903. At that time, he became heavily involved in the Artists’ Association of New Orleans. He established his studio at 320 Exchange Place in the New Orleans French Quarter. Significant commissions included D.H. Holmes Department Store and Sushan Airport, as well as showings at Tulane University and the National Association of Newspaper Artists. In later life, Drysdale was partially supported by the Civil Works Administration. Today his art can be viewed at the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and The Historic New Orleans Collection.

1913 Riverfront

New Orleans rose to prominence as the second-largest port city in the United States prior to the Southern Rebellion. This was in part because its location near the mouth of the Mississippi River enabled easy export of cotton and indigo and import of finished goods of all kinds from Europe. Cotton was still king by the time of the Industrial Revolution. High-volume cotton presses improved export volumes. Planters and smaller farmers sold their crop to factors in New Orleans. Those companies transported cotton via riverboat (go read Derby Gisclair’s book on steamboats) to the city. The raw cotton was compressed and loaded on freighters like the one in this painting.

Additionally, New Orleans became an import nexus for coffee and bananas. Riverboats and railroads moved the goods north.