Social realist painter Reginald Marsh frequently depicted soldiers, sailors, floozies, burlesque dancers, moviegoers, bums, and other colorful characters that populated New York in the first half of the 20th century.
And he had a special fondness for Coney Island—the rougher edges of the boardwalk and beach, that is, filled with garish sideshows (“Pip and Flip,” from 1932, above), skimpy bathing suits, the promise of fun and adventure on a five-cent carnival ride.
[Above: "Wonderland Circus, Sideshow Coney Island," 1930]
“Marsh explained that he was drawn to Coney Island ‘because of the sea, the open air, and the crowds—crowds of people in all directions, without clothing, moving—like the great compositions of Michelangelo and Rubens,’” according to this recent piece on Marsh on the Smithsonian Institution’s blog.
[Above: "Geroge C. Tilyou's Steeplechase Park," 1932]
It’s a part of Coney Island that hasn’t been totally erased with all the new development. You can still catch in glimpses.
Tags: Coney Island Freak show, Coney Island paintings, Coney Island sideshow, New York in the 1930s, Pip and Flip Reginald Marsh, Reginald Marsh, Social Realist painters New York City, Steeplechase Park Coney Island