The Ride with a Snap, Venice, California

Karl Yens
The Ride with a Snap, Venice, California
Oil on canvas, 1918
40 1/4 x 50 1/4 inches
Gift of Mrs. John Grier

Karl Yens painted The Ride with a Snap, Venice, California in 1918 at the end of World War I. His patriotic evocation of the flag—the red, white, and blue pennants fluttering furiously in the wind—gives a nod to prominent American Impressionist Childe Hassam’s Flag series (1916-1919).

Intent on attracting people to Southern California in the early 20th century, regional developers built several amusement parks in the Santa Monica and Venice area. Yens’s painting depicts a carousel ride from this period on Abbot Kinney Pier in Venice called The Great American Racing Derby. The exciting ride consisted of a 72-foot in diameter, mechanized track with forty racing horses grouped four abreast. When the ride reached a speed of 25 miles per hour, a bell sounded, the race stopped (suddenly or perhaps with the snap of a whip?), and the winner of each row of four horses won a free ride.

German born, Yens must have been acutely sensitive about his loyalty to his newly adopted country (Yens immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1910) and the conclusion of World War I no doubt had a significant impact on him. As such, The Ride with a Snap, Venice, California can be seen as a celebratory painting, not only capturing the spirit of the end of World War I, but offering up a visage of his newly adopted country, its youth racing toward a glorious future.


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