The energy and vitality of New York City's Lower East Side still exist, little changed since George Benjamin Luks (1867-1933) caroused on the area's bustling sidewalks. Hester Street (cover ) depicts the gritty urban scene, a market and all its inherent drama on display for an original audience that rarely, if ever, would have had reason to tread the streets and alleys of that colorful neighborhood filled with tenement houses. Today's Hester Street teems with curious tourists, local inhabitants, recent immigrants, and storefronts that spill their assortments of goods, reflecting the multiethnic atmosphere. There, one can savor homemade pasta and sip espresso, then half a block away pick up a bánh mì to devour while shopping for Asian vegetables or shiny fish—heads and all—lined up in their beds of ice, effluent dripping into makeshift drainage buckets. The essence of Hester Street in 1905 provided the perfect setting for Luks, who was painting as an urban realist, in the style of his colleagues and friends. Later termed the Ashcan School, and led by Robert Henri (JAMA cover, August 26, 2009), this group of independent artists grew into a conglomeration called The Eight; they exhibited their works in a small, nonjuried show in February 1908 at the Macbeth Gallery. The gallery, on Fifth Avenue, operated in a world far removed—although not geographically distant from—the microcosm of Hester Street.
Torpy JM. Hester Street. JAMA. 2010;304(10):1046. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1153