The solitary walkers across the Depression-era Manhattan Bridge

Social realist artist Reginald Marsh has painted Coney Island burlesque performers, sailors and soldiers, forgotten men at lonely docks and Bowery dives, sideshow gawkers, subway riders, and sexily dressed men and women carousing and enjoying the playground that is 1920s and 1930s Manhattan after dark.

But “Manhattan Bridge,” from 1938, is different. It’s a portrait of a muscular bridge and the ordinary, solitary New Yorkers who walk across it—figures not with Marsh’s usual exaggerated expressions but with their backs turned toward us, unglamorous and getting to where they are going.

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5 Responses to “The solitary walkers across the Depression-era Manhattan Bridge”

  1. tom Says:

    Architecture and urban infrastructure are his real strength.

  2. Carol Ann Siciliano Says:

    Thank you for highlighting Reginald Marsh. That painting is beautiful.

    I was lucky to work in a Washington DC building with a pair of Marsh murals he painted with the WPA. One shows mail being unloaded in the NY harbor (I think) and the other, my favorite, shows mail being processed in the bowels of Penn Station (I think, because I recognize the iron work stair rails).

  3. velovixen Says:

    Marsh was often considered one of the “social realist” painters of the 1930s. Those artists usually idealized workers and often showed them as underdogs in exploitative situations. Here, though, The Machine seems to be “winning” in that the structures of the bridges reach upward, if toward something less than ideal. And, as the editor of this blog points out, the people are just going about their business: cogs in the machine, if you will. The forms and colors help to capture all of this. Good stuff.

    Interesting fact: Marsh later taught at the Art Students’ League. They ran a summer camp, in which Marsh also taught. One of his campers, if you will, was a student named Roy Lichtenstein.

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