Painting: Hashish Amid the Smog

On a clear day in 1956, Jack Youngerman, a Kentucky-born painter, then 30, returned to the U.S. after nine years in Paris. As his ship entered New York Harbor, he was struck by the bright sun glinting on the water and the skyline. "It reminded me of the Middle East," he recalls. "I had made several trips there while I was in Europe. Its fascination for me had something to do with clarity and voluptuousness, a preoccupation with perfumes and running water, a hashish atmosphere instead of the heavy barrooms-and-whis-ky Rubens atmosphere of Europe. Now I was struck by...