Reginald Marsh is one of the best known chroniclers of 1930s and 40s New York. It has been said that Marsh was to New York what Daumier was to Paris and Hogarth was to London. His paintings, drawings, and prints capture the aura and pace of the ever-changing city at a particularly exciting time in its history. This exhibition is the first major showing of Marsh’s work in New York in a decade.
Marsh was fascinated with the seedier aspects of New York, and he was an obsessive explorer of the great metropolis. It was in places such as Coney Island, the burlesque parlors and dance halls of Fourteenth Street, the Bowery, the streets, and the subway that the Yale educated, financially comfortable Marsh found the subjects he was looking for -- Bowery bums, burlesque queens, musclemen, bathing beauties, and streetwalkers. Marsh returned repeatedly to his favorite locations, usually working on the spot with sketchbooks and taking photographs that were used as the source material for completed works back in his Fourteenth Street studio.
The more subtle and complex psychological aspects of Marsh’s work have sometimes been neglected over the years. Many of his works display an unexpected separation of and contrast between his male and female subjects. Marsh’s notion of sexuality centers on exhibitionism and voyeurism. His men are frequently shown in the background watching the women, either in overtly voyeuristic settings such as burlesque halls, or in street scenes where they are strictly background figures to the bold women striding in the foreground. Many of Marsh’s women are portrayed in lurid poses and situations, but the artist never degrades them.
Courtesy of DC Moore Gallery