The drawings and paintings of Reginald Marsh convey the energy of city life in the early years of the twentieth century. From happy crowds at amusement parks like Coney Island to derelicts in the Bowery, his work captures the flavor of life in New York City in the 1920s and 1930s. Marsh is regarded as an American Scene painter, one of a number of American artists who portrayed specific regions of the country in a realistic style.
Marsh was born in Paris. His family moved to the United States two years later. During the 1920s he studied at the Art Students League in New York and also worked as an illustrator for the New York Daily News, the New York Herald, Esquire, and Harper's Bazaar. He was one of the original staff members of The New Yorker. From 1925 to 1926 he studied in Paris, and after his return to New York City resumed classes at the Art Students League with Kenneth Hayes Miller.
Unlike the social realists, Marsh's art was not one of vigorous protest; rather he cast a knowing eye on urban life, which he depicted with gentle satire. The vitality of the city fascinated him. In prints as well as paintings, he portrayed subways, nightclubs, and everyday street scenes in a style that reflected his admiration for European old master artists such as Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640). He completed murals for the Ariel Rios Building (formerly the U.S. Post Office Building) in Washington, D.C., and for the Customs House in New York City. Marsh died in Dorset, Vermont.
[This is an excerpt from the interactive companion to the videodisc American Art from the National Gallery of Art.]