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New York Seen

The essay below, impressions of New York by Fernand Léger, is reprinted from Cahiers d’Art, Vol. 6 Nos. 9–10, 1931. The translation is by Henry Geldzahler, Curator of American Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

For Sara Murphy

THE MOST COLOSSAL SPECTACLE in the world. Neither cinema nor photography nor journalism has tarnished that astonishing event, New York at night seen from the fortieth floor. This city has resisted all the vulgarizations, all the curiosity of men who have tried to describe it, to copy it. It retains its freshness, its unexpectedness, its surprise for the traveler who sees it for the first time.

The steamer, losing speed, quietly changes perspectives; we look for the Statue of Liberty, the gift of France; it’s a modest little statuette, forgotten in the midst of the port at the foot of this new audacious and vertical continent. We don’t see her, she has in vain raised her

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