Subway Riders is a composite of individual portraits brought together to capture the mood and feeling of a morning or evening commute. In this work, Fasanella's rapidly developing confidence in his skill at depicting larger figures and portraits-undoubtedly the result of obsessive sketching-allowed him to lavish attention on the individual features of this diverse group of people.
The painting conveys the suspension of time and activity that marks the interlude between the worlds of home and work. Riders are self-absorbed, whether deep in thought, daydreaming or reading the day's newspaper. There is no social interaction, and yet the prevailing mood is pensive and comfortable. The painting does include ironic juxtapositions between the workaday world of the subway riders and the utopia promised by the advertisements above their heads.