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The World Of Reginald Marsh

March 2023
1min read

Reginald Marsh carried his sketchbook in his pocket everywhere he went, and with an artist’s fountain pen he made sketches of everything he saw. These sketchbooks, scores of them, he filed in chronological order, often referring to them for data for his paintings. In these hitherto unpublished drawings we accompany him on his daily rounds, walking the sidewalks of New York, taking the subway to Coney Island, watching the burlesque shows, or exploring the harbor by tugboat or ferry. This remarkable record, amounting to thousands of sketches, continues from its modest but probing beginnings in the twenties to the fluent mastery of his last years—surely one of the most extraordinary pictorial diaries ever kept by an artist. The drawing at right is of a lamppost on Union Square (Marsh’s studio was on the top floor of the building in the background). This was the famous “bishop’s-crook” lamppost that was erected in the streets of New York in the iSgo’s. By 1954, when Marsh made this drawing, the lamppost was carrying a lot more than its original burden of lamp and street signs. It was now hung with traffic lights and symbols, route numbers and mailboxes. It was New York’s totem pole. But it still wore an air of urban elegance, which Marsh delineated with the same loving care he devoted to the lines of a ship or the intricate structure of the El.

The Underside of the City

The Proletarian Beach

The Gathering Place

Anatomy Lessons

The Raffish Days of Burlesque

People Observed

The Gateway

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