Posts Tagged ‘Reginald Marsh’

The bums and barflies on a 10th Avenue corner

December 27, 2016

“Well-bred people are no fun to paint,” Reginald Marsh once reportedly said.

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Known for his exaggerated, carnival-like paintings of crowds of showgirls, shoppers, and Coney Island beach-goers, Marsh was deeply taken by the forgotten men of 1930s New York—casualties of the Depression who gathered at bars and on breadlines.

reginaldmarshcorner2016His 1931 etching, “Tenth Avenue at 27th Street,” gives us a detailed look at a crowd of anonymous men lined up along the side of a shadowy saloon in a rough-edged neighborhood.

The men either look away, leaning against the bar like it’s a lifeboat, or leer at a lone woman.

Hmm . . . what would Marsh think of this same corner 86 years later, with the High Line and art galleries drawing the well-bred people who never made it into his sketchbook?

[Second image: Google]

A painter renders Union Square’s sea of humanity

August 22, 2016

Shop girls, down and out men, lone pedestrians on the way to the elevated train—from the 1930s to the 1980s, Isabel Bishop observed these men and women from her Union Square artist’s studio, painting them in soft tones that reveal their humanity and fragility.

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Born in 1902 in Cincinnati, Bishop moved to Manhattan at age 16 to attend the New York School of Applied Design for Women. She then took classes at the Art Students League, developing her talents as a printmaker and painter.

Influenced by early Modernists like Robert Henri and old masters such as Rubens, she became associated with the 14th Street School, a group of realist artists that included Reginald Marsh and Raphael Soyer.

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Bishop married in 1934 and moved to Riverdale. But she kept her studio first at Nine West 14th Street and then another at 857 Broadway. The Union Square area in those pre- and postwar decades was home to lower-end department stores, offices, and cheap entertainment venues.

And of course, there was the park itself, a gathering place for everyone from soap-box agitators to workers on their lunch hour to derelict men with no where else to go.

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The subject matter right outside her studio suited Bishop perfectly.

“It was in New York’s pulsating environment that Bishop combined her admiration for the old masters with a contemporary taste for urban realism,” states the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

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“With her discerning eye, she portrayed ordinary people in an extraordinary manner, often monumentalizing her figures within spaces that barely created context or indicated a location.”

“She chose average models from the streets of Manhattan and often rendered them in a state of physical activity—a sharp departure from the idealized, passive nudes of previous traditions.”

[“Fifteenth Street and Sixth Avenue,” 1930]

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Bishop focused many of her paintings on women—the otherwise ordinary women who passed through Union Square, coming in and out of offices or catching a train. Neither mothers nor sex symbols, they “exist for themselves,” as one critic put it.

“On the street corner, in the automat, in the subway and on park benches in fine weather, Miss Bishop proved herself a perceptive observer,” wrote the New York Times in her obituary. “For young women in the big city who were as yet unmarked by life, she had a particular feeling.”

[“Fourteenth Street,” 1932]

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As time went on, Bishop’s style seemed to become more muted, with figures of women in what looks like perpetual motion—perhaps a comment on the rise of women in American society.

Bishopselfportrait1927Bishop kept her Union Square studio until 1984; she died in 1988. This self-portrait was done in 1927, when she was just 25.

She isn’t as well-known as she should be, but her amber-hued men and women caught in ordinary, fleeting moments speak to the anonymity and motion of urban life in the 20th century.

[Images 1-4; 6: onlinebrowsing.com; Image 5 and 7, dcmooregallery.com]

Down on his luck at the Brooklyn docks in 1938

April 11, 2016

Reginald Marsh painted the city’s extremes: gaudy, seedy Coney Island, sex at burlesque shows, Bowery revelry, and the might and strength symbolized by ships and industry.

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But his solemn forgotten man (and a second man, lying down on the left) perched at the edge of a dock in 1938’s “Docks, Brooklyn” reveals a loneliness and despair unlike anything depicted in his other paintings and illustrations.

And it just sold for more than $6,000.

A 1930s painter’s coarse, crowded Coney Island

June 6, 2013

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.

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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.

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[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.

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[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.

“Tattoo and Haircut” on the Bowery

June 18, 2012

Tattoo parlors, sketchy barber shops, and shady characters hanging around an all-night Bowery mission are all part of painter Reginald Marsh’s “Tattoo and Haircut,” completed in 1932.

Marsh’s paintings typically feature the city’s marginalized Depression-era outcasts.

“What interested Marsh was not the individuals in a crowd, but the crowd itself … In their density and picturesqueness, they recall the crowds in the movies of Preston Sturges or Frank Capra,” wrote Marilyn Cohen in Reginald Marsh’s New York.

The “End of the 14th Street Crosstown Line”

May 7, 2012

In 1936, artist Reginald Marsh, known as a social realist for his depictions of a bustling, sensual, grotesque city, painted this scene of the old clashing with the new on 14th Street.

“Painted during an era of labor unrest in Union Square, ‘End of 14th Street Crosstown Line’ juxtaposes construction workers tearing up old trolley car lines with picketers demonstrating against Ohrbach’s, a store that had refused to allow its workers to unionize,” writes the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, which owns the painting.

Looking into Edward Hopper’s “Night Windows”

December 6, 2010

Most of us have found ourselves on either end of this kind of scenario—painted in 1928 by Greenwich Village resident Hopper.

The Whitney has an exhibition of Edward Hopper paintings and prints, as well as those of his contemporaries like Martin Lewis and Reginald Marsh. It runs through April 2011.

“Why Not Use the El?”

March 5, 2010

Painter Reginald Marsh depicts a grungy East Side elevated train and its isolated, Depression-era passengers in carnivalesque color in 1930.

The sign above the sleeping man’s head reads something like: “The subway is fast . . . but the elevated gets you there quickly. Why not use the ‘L'”? I never thought of the El and the subway as competitors.

Marsh had a thing for the seedy side of New York, like this Times Square theater scene he painted in 1936.

“20 Cent Movie” at a Times Square theater

November 7, 2009

In the 1920s and 1930s, painter Reginald Marsh depicted scenes from the seedy side of the city: burlesque-show floozies, Bowery bums, and life’s other bit players—including these characters hanging around the Lyric Theater on 42nd Street.

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“20 Cent Movie” dates back to 1936. Marsh was also drawn to Coney Island; he painted a number of carnivalesque beach and boardwalk scenes similar to this one.