The Walls of Hoboken: Illustrations by William Magruder

May 28 - July 2, 2017

An architectural illustrator by profession, William Magruder has an irrepressible artistic imagination that expresses itself in fantasy-infused drawings, reminiscent of one of his favorite artists, Windsor McKay.

A recent series was inspired by Hoboken’s inundation during Superstorm Sandy. Magruder and his wife had lived here since 2002, and his adopted city’s defenselessness during the storm surge sent Magruder’s imagination on a journey to the fortified cities and villages he had seen on his travels through Europe. Among his favorites is Lucca, Italy, whose thick, sloped, brick-and-stone walls were built by 16th century residents for protection against mortar shells.

The walls were built to last and give the impression of impregnability, he recalls, but they are also topped with promenades so the people could enjoy the surrounding landscape during peaceful times. “They’re a delight, a magical combination of landscape and architecture,” he says. “They’re a wonderful asset to the city, drawing tourists and residents alike.”

These walls become particularly intriguing when they’re adjacent to water, Magruder adds, like those in Antibes, on the Côte d’Azur of France. That’s what inspired him to imagine such fortifications surrounding Hoboken, keeping the water at bay, yet allowing people to enjoy the views from the walkway on top. He began the series by drawing in pen and ink, with no preconceptions of how they would turn out, because he prefers creating art spontaneously. He then developed some illustrations into full-color renderings using 3D computer modeling.

His “The Walls of Hoboken” drawings are a fantasy exercise, he admits, “not a design solution.” For one thing, in the 16th century, most of the labor was conscripted! But with Margruder’s award-winning technical expertise, his illustrations of solid walls seem as capable of protecting a city as any Frank Lloyd Wright renderings.

Magruder has published the illustrations in a book, and a number of them will be displayed in the Hoboken Museum’s Upper Gallery from May 28 through July 2. For a preview, and to see other work by the artist, visit

Magruder and his wife no longer live in Hoboken; they have recently relocated to Italy, choosing Milan for its central location and ease of life without a car. He continues to practice his art and do some teaching.

The exhibit is supported by a block grant from the State/County Partnership program for the Arts, administered by the Hudson County Division of Cultural and Heritage Affairs.