Artist Richard La Rovere Deepens the Archive of Jersey City One Drawing at a Time

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Montgomery Street and Jersey Avenue, Jersey City, circa 1892. Image courtesy Richard La Rovere.

Richard La Rovere is an artist in every sense of the word. Educated at New Jersey City University, he holds a BFA in commercial art and has enjoyed a successful freelance career for decades, drawing for real estate agencies, corporations, stores and restaurants, and even private citizens. Mr. La Rovere was born and raised in Jersey City and spent his youth “sketching on the street in pencil and developing a love for old buildings and landmarks,” he says.


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Hepburn Hall, New Jersey City University. Image courtesy Richard La Rovere.

The work, whether it be in oil and acrylic, pen/ink, or watercolor, achieves, through astounding attention to detail and true talent, a reality so accurate he often acts as a liaison between developers and architects. Architectural renderings are the bread and butter of Mr. La Rovere’s portfolio; his urban streetscapes, however, are a whimsical window into his hometown’s past and present, earning Mr. La Rovere the nickname “Jersey City’s visual historian.”

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Grand Street and Communipaw Avenue, Jersey City, circa 1890s. Image courtesy Richard La Rovere.

Speaking with Jersey Digs from his studio space on Ogden Avenue in The Heights a few months ago, Mr. La Rovere joked his streetscapes are a “nickel tour of Jersey City” and discussed his prolific portfolio to date and his process, which is, of course, still by hand, adding “more depth” to work like architectural renderings that are typically crafted by AutoCAD now. Because of his more personal approach to this work, his drawings are often used in real estate advertising and as closing gifts for realtors. Many individual homeowners have commissioned him to render their home as a keepsake as well.

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Belmont Avenue, Jersey City, circa 1900s. Image courtesy Richard La Rovere.

Mr. La Rovere noted that Downtown Jersey City has experienced the most interesting evolution as a neighborhood, but his repertoire sweeps across Jersey City, every corner of Chill Town seems to have been sketched, and he doesn’t stop there: NYC, Newark, Bayonne, Hoboken, Chicago, a trip to Cuba, and even long-gone murals that once graced the interiors of buildings in Jersey City all provide inspiration for his portfolio.

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City Hall, Jersey City, circa 1900s. Image courtesy Richard La Rovere.

Epic sketches of the Empire State Building and recreations of storied artists’ work appear alongside imagined imagery of historical events, landscapes beautifully brought to life, and even a portrait of a puppy dog and cartoon characters — it’s as if anything and everything is a chance to exercise his instrument, put pen to paper, and really define his artistic muscle. On the subject of talent, Mr. La Rovere says, “His art is the result of practice and hard work and that people are not just born with this skill. It is to this end that he labors daily to perfect his already unique style.”

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The Empire State Building. Image courtesy Richard La Rovere.
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Imagined street scene, Bergen Township. Image courtesy Richard La Rovere.

Using mostly old photographs as reference, Mr. La Rovere turns Jersey City from black and white to color. The basis for his Journal Square Concourse circa 1967 were photographs he found in the bottom of a shoebox. The Jersey City Public Library and its 4th Floor, The New Jersey Room, are a go-to resource. Building cards with photographs and statistics for tax purposes also help to reconstruct the architecture of a bygone era. Comparing Mr. La Rovere’s sketches to the sites today is a study in what evolves and what endures and it’s just a fun undertaking, too.

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Journal Square Concourse, Jersey City, circa 1967. Image courtesy Richard La Rovere.

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Looking north along Kennedy (then Hudson) Boulevard, Jersey City, circa 1955. Image courtesy Richard La Rovere.
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North view today. Photo by Gillian Blair/Jersey Digs.
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Lincoln Park Fountain, Jersey City. Image courtesy Richard La Rovere.
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The restored fountain today. Photo by Gillian Blair/Jersey City.

Mr. La Rovere is a member of the Hudson Artists of New Jersey, Inc., and the Upstairs Art Gallery in Jersey City. His art is housed in the collections of the Jersey City Museum, the Community Development Corporation, the Newark Public Library, the Jersey City Public Library, and the NJ Transit Corporation. Real estate clients include Brown Harris Stevens and Stribling Associates and Mr. La Rovere has also worked with various historical societies and landmark commissions. He has even drawn all the firehouses of Jersey City. His drawings are truly a delight, check out just some of his work here. Richard La Rovere can be reached at 551-208-3901 or [email protected].

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Firehouse on Sip Avenue, Jersey City. Image courtesy Richard La Rovere.

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