The first major assessment of the work of ‘American Scene’ artist Reginald Marsh (1898–1954) in over 30 years
With essays by Morris Dickstein, Erika Doss, Barbara Haskell, Jackson Lears, Lance Mayer and
Gay Myers, and Sasha Nicholas
Focusing on 60 paintings, drawings, and prints, drawn from public and private collections across the U.S., along with a selection of his photographs and sketches, Swing Time sets Marsh’s exuberant depictions of urban daily life within the context of the economic uncertainty of 1930s America and the work of fellow artists who shared his interest in the New York scene.
With his fine brushstrokes, busy compositions and bold handling of colour, Marsh revealed a passion for contemporary detail, capturing New York City’s energy and vibrancy. Incorporating well-known advertising signs, posters, newspaper headlines, and other references to popular culture in his work, he recorded a new urban reality. His interest in the earthiness of everyday life is evident in his depictions of the middle and lower classes, and those on the periphery of mainstream society – Bowery bums, Vaudeville stars, burlesque queens, Coney Island musclemen and lonely subway riders. Fascinated by the city’s gaudy colours and the overt sexuality of his subjects, Marsh also expressed a common bond of humanity with those living under severe economic and social hardship, a theme still relevant today.
This striking volume sets Marsh’s fascinating work of the 1930s alongside paintings, prints, and photographs of contemporaries such as Isabel Bishop, Paul Cadmus, Edward Laning, Kenneth Hayes Miller, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Walt Kuhn, Raphael and Isaac Soyer, Ben Shahn, Berenice Abbott, Nickolas Muray, Walker Evans, Lisette Model, Ralph Steiner, Grancel Fitz and Weegee. Together, they tell a complex and highly contrasting visual story of New York City life in this tumultuous time of change.
Barbara Haskell is curator, Whitney Museum of American Art, and the author of numerous books and monographs on early to mid twentieth-century American artists.
Morris Dickstein is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English at CUNY Graduate Center in New York City.
Erika Doss is professor, Department of American Studies, University of Notre Dame, Indiana.
Jackson Lears is Board of Governors Professor of History, Rutgers University, New Jersey.
Lance Mayer and Gay Myers are independent painting conservators.
Sasha Nicholas is an independent curator and art historian.
Table of Contents
- President’s Foreword
- Curator’s Preface
- Swing Time: Reginald Marsh and the Exuberant Chaos of Modern Life by Barbara Haskell
- Keeping the Carnival in Town: Reginald Marsh and the Culture of the 1930s by Jackson Lears
- The Urban Spectacle of Reginald Marsh by Morris Dickstein
- “Go Out into the Street, Stare at the People”: Reginald Marsh and Surveillance Styles in
Interwar American Art by Erika Doss
- Camera-Crazed: Reginald Marsh’s Photographs by Sasha Nicholas
- Marsh’s Techniques: The Craft of Painting and the Secrets of the Old Masters in Modern Times by Lance Mayer and Gay Myers
- Selected bibliography
- Photo credits