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View, New York City, Skyscraper Construction Workers, Orson Lowell, Illustration Art, Drawing, c. 1930


Orson Byron Lowell (American, 1871-1956)
[Construction Workers on the Empire State Building]
American: c. 1930
Ink, conte crayon, and white wash on illustration board
Signed in pencil, lower right
Signed and inscribed far lower right margin
18.5 x 12.5 inches, image to ruled border
22.25 x 15 inches, overall

Drawing showing two construction workers conversing on a girder high above Midtown Manhattan, in the midst of the building of the Empire State Building. One stands on the girder, the other is seated with a wrench in his hand and his feet dangling, looking pensively downward. A large hook-and-pulley mechanism for lifting girders is shown hanging in the foreground. In the distance is the Chrysler Building and the East River. This helps date the artwork to around 1930, since the Chrysler Building was completed that year, and the Empire State Building the following year. Prepared as illustration art for publication, it has a light pencil outline ruled to where it would be cropped, and the caption is printed in block letters below the drawing, a conversation between the two men:

“That’s the whistle, bill.  Aincha gonna quit?”
“Yeah, but they had to operate on the little fellow to-day and gee, I’m scared to go home.”

Product description continues below.


Orson Byron Lowell was an American illustrator, cartoonist, painter and designer who frequently worked in pen and ink, conte crayon, and gouache. He was born in Iowa where his father Milton H. Lowell was a landscape painter. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago under J.H. Vanderpoel and was already receiving illustration assignments in his final year of study. In 1893 he moved to New York, where he soon developed a successful career as an illustrator of periodicals including Life, Judge, and Punch. He was also known for his cartoons with a social commentary message. He purchased a home in New Rochelle in an artist’s community that included Norman Rockwell. Lowell became a member of the Society of Illustrators in 1901, and was also a member of the Artists Guild and other art associations. His works are in the Cincinnati Museum among institutions and are reproduced in several art historical works on illustration art of the 20th century.

Inscription outer margin lower right corner: Orson Lowell, 501 5th Ave. N.Y.

Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning and wear.  Slightly greater toning from former matting, can be rematted out. Conte crayon can smudge, must be handled carefully and framed properly. Glue residue in horizontal band far upper margin, easily matted out.


Cabrera, Armand. “Orson Byron Lowell.” Art and Influence. 4 October 2015. (7 November 2017).

Falk, Peter Hastings, ed. Who Was Who in American Art. Madison, Connecticut: Sound View Press, 1985. p. 381.