Reginald Marsh, American School

By Thomas Craven

from Treasury of Art Masterpieces, 1958

Simon & Schuster, Publishers

IN THE younger generation of American artists, those who came forward since the First World War, Reginald Marsh stood apart as the offspring of the city, a painter concerned exclusively with the urban scene. After his schooling at Lawrenceville and Yale, he settled in New York, and in a short time became conspicuous for his studies of the humbler aspects of metropolitan life. Infuenced by the robust Americanism of John Sloan, and with the same eye for signficant detail, Marsh turned his back on the esthetic whims and theories of the day, and established headquarters in lower Manhattan. A man of even temperament, with no disposition to take sides in economic or social issues, or to whip himself into a fighting rage, he was an observer of life, or that very real slice of it extending from the shop and subway to the dance hall and Coney Island. Other artists have painted the city, but with a grinning cynicism, or a political bias that destroys reality: Marsh, in contrast, really loved New York and all its grand vulgarity.

The smart circles of society left him cold; well-bred people bored him, and he could not paint them with any degree of success.

He was interested in the submerged orders - in their vigorous sensuality which he accepted as frankly and affectionately as Renoir accepted it. He painted Harlem and the Bowery, the parks and the bread lines; and he painted the shopgirls of Fourteenth Street and the girls of the public beaches and burlesque shows with sensual tenderness and deep appreciation of the enticements of exposed flesh. He was an artist of power, one of the best of modern draftsmen, with a steady flow of productive energy directed into etchings of the highest quality, tempera paintings, and murals. His decorations, in fresco, in the Customs House of New York, a Federal commission for which he received the wages of a day laborer, are monumental representations of great ocean liners and the congested excitements of landings and departures.

Marsh developed an original method of painting in transparent glazes which , curiously vibrating quality to his surfaces but which are difficult to reproduce. Wooden Horses is an illustration of this personal method: a section from the playgrounds of New York, with the surge of light and color, and the irresponsible animation of his favorite actors in the metropolitan carnival.

Copyright 1953 Thomas Craven

New Book on Marsh Coming - Oct 2012

Swing Time Reginald Marsh New York City

Hardcover: 176 pages
Publisher: D Giles Ltd
Coming in October 2012.

Swing Time: Reginald Marsh and Thirties New York

By Barbara Haskell (Editor), Erika Doss, Barbara Haskell, Jackson Lears, Lance Mayer and Gay Myers, and Sasha Nicholas Morris Dickstein (Editor)

Available from

High Yaller Reginald Marsh

Reginald Marsh

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