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Reginald Marsh

 (1898 - 1954)
Reginald Marsh was active/lived in New York, Vermont.  Reginald Marsh is known for illustration, urban realistic painting-figure and genre.

Reginald Marsh

    MAHRSH  speaker-click to hear pronunciation  click to hear

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Reginald Marsh
An urban realist painter of New York City genre, Reginald Marsh devoted his career to depicting people going about their everyday business including Bowery bums, vulgar party goers, and persons elbowing their way in crowded subways.  He was also a printmaker, completing about 236 etchings*, lithographs*, and engravings*, and devoted much time, especially in the 1930s, to printmaking*. Many of his paintings were done in watercolor and egg tempera*.

He was born in Paris to American-born artist parents, Fred Dana and Alice Randall Marsh.  His family settled in Nutley, New Jersey in 1900 and later in New Rochelle, New York.  After graduating from Yale University, he worked as a free-lance illustrator in New York City for the Daily News and The New Yorker and studied at the Art Students League*.

He was much influenced by urban realists John Sloan, George Luks and Kenneth Hayes Miller.  He went briefly to Europe and then returned to New York to pursue his sympathetic depiction of low-life subjects.  In the 1930s, he did murals for the W.P. A.*, and in 1943, he was elected a full Academician to the National Academy of Design*.

Reginald Marsh died in Dorset, Vermont in 1954.

Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Biography from the Archives of askART
Biography photo for Reginald Marsh
Reginald Marsh was born in Paris, France in 1898, the child of artist parents. He was born over a small cafe on Paris' Left Bank. He was brought to the United States in 1900 and was drawing before he was three. He studied art at Yale University and the Art Students League, during which time he worked primarily as an illustrator for New York newspapers and magazines. After studying in Paris in 1925 and 1926, he turned seriously to painting. In 1929 he was introduced to the egg-tempera medium, which he used extensively the rest of his life.

Marsh's gusto for painting the bottom crust of society contrasted curiously with his background. His parents, both well-known artists, were steeped in academic traditions. He attended Lawrenceville Academy and Yale; perhaps this elite background made it possible to paint the earthy people he did with a journalist's objectivity.

An admirer of Rubens and Delacroix, he disliked modernist art; indeed, his lifelong preoccupation was with people - enjoying themselves at beaches, at amusement parks, or on crowded city streets. Marsh was a second-generation Ash Can School painter and printmaker, best known as an urban regionalist. He spent his days sketching in small notebooks with a pen.

He died in 1954 of a heart attack.

Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

Sources include:
Dictionary of American Art by Matthew Baigell, published by Harper and Row, 1979
Time magazine, November 7, 1955

Biography from Hollis Taggart Galleries
Reginald Marsh was the consummate chronicler of everyday urban life, turning his discerning eye to the streets of New York. In countless paintings, drawings, illustrations, and sketches, he captured the city's modernity—electric lights, movie theaters, and billboards; its bustling city centers—Central Park, Coney Island, and Union Square; and its seediness—the down-and-out figures in the Bowery. When asked for his advice to young painters, he replied, "How to draw? Go out into the street, stare at the people. Stare, stare, keep on staring. Go to your studio, stare at your pictures, yourself, everything." (1)

Born in Paris, Marsh's parents were both artists: Fred Dana Marsh, a painter whose work documented the construction of many New York City skyscrapers, and Alice Randall, a miniature painter. Marsh attended Yale University, and was the star illustrator for "The Yale Record," the campus humor magazine. Upon graduation in 1920, he went to New York with the hopes of launching his career as a freelance illustrator. Two years later, he landed a job as a staff artist for the "Daily News." In his first assignment, the series "Subway Sunbeams," he documented the humorous side of city life; the success of the series secured him a daily column, where he depicted the performers and attendees of the popular vaudeville shows. Years later Marsh wrote of the "Daily News" experience, "It was interesting work. . . . On Mondays I'd visit so many vaudeville shows I'd lose track of the number." (2) At the same time, he began painting scenes of street life in New York in oil and watercolor.

By 1924, only four years after moving to New York, he had his first one-man show at the Whitney Studio Club, the gallery pioneered by Juliana Force. The following year he joined the staff of "The New Yorker," a position he held for seven years. He provided "Profile" portraits and humorous illustrations, and he covered plays, movies, and metropolitan life in general. Marsh wrote of his newspaper career, "It took the place of an art school, and was very good training because you had to get the people in action, and sketch them quickly." (3)

This is not to say that Marsh had no formal training. During his senior year at Yale, he took classes in still life and antique drawing. His first year in New York he spent four months in John Sloan's evening drawing class at the Art Students League (1920-21), and in 1922, he spent a month each in the life classes of Kenneth Hayes Miller, George Bridgman, and George Luks, all at the League. Of these superb teachers, Miller became a lifelong mentor, friend, and confidante of Marsh. It was Miller who encouraged the young artist to paint the earthy vitality and social landscape of life in New York, subjects typical of American scene painting.

In 1925, Marsh traveled with his first wife, sculptor Betty Burroughs, to Europe where he studied and copied the works of the Old Master painters such as Rubens, Rembrandt and Michelangelo, whom he particularly admired for their ability to organize large figure groups. Part of the vibrant New York artistic scene and a member of the Whitney Studio Club, Marsh developed close friends and colleagues. Thomas Hart Benton introduced Marsh to egg tempera, the medium in which most of his street scenes of the 1930s are painted. In the 1940s, he experimented with the "Maroger medium," an oil emulsion formula that recreated the effects of the Old Master painters.

While Marsh was very busy with illustration work, he grew increasingly interested in the city's poorer quarters, among the working poor and the unemployed-- along the waterfront, 14th Street, the Lower East Side, the Bowery, inside the subway, and along the railroad tracks that ran down 10th Avenue, a section called "Death Avenue." He continued to observe New York life—its highs and its lows—until his untimely death in 1954 at the age of 56. That year, shortly before his death, Marsh received the gold medal of the National Institute of Arts and Letters, the highest award in the American cultural world.

1. Reinhold Heller, "Reginald Marsh, 1898-1954: Selected Paintings and Sketches from the Collections of Mrs. Reginald Marsh and the Honorable and Mrs. William Benton," exh. cat. (Pittsburgh: Fine Arts Galleries of Pittsburgh, 1970), n.p.
2. Lloyd Goodrich, Reginald Marsh (New York: Harry N. Abrams), p. 24.
3. Ibid.

© Copyright 2008 Hollis Taggart Galleries

Biography from D. Wigmore Fine Art, Inc.
Biography photo for Reginald Marsh
Reginald Marsh was born in Paris, France in 1898, the second son of American artists Fred Dana Marsh and Alice Randall Marsh. His family returned to the U.S. in 1900, settling in New Jersey. The Marsh family moved to New Rochelle, New York in 1914, where Reginald attended the Riverview Military Academy until 1915. Marsh spent his senior year at the Lawrenceville School where he drew for the school's annual. Marsh then attended Yale Art School in 1916-20 where he became the star illustrator for The Yale Record and, later, its art editor. In his newspaper work Marsh exhibited a graphic skill and a gift for pictorial humor.

On graduating from Yale in 1920, Marsh moved to New York City where he supported himself as a freelance illustrator for newspapers and magazines, such as Vanity Fair and Harper's Bazaar. In 1922, Marsh became a staff artist for The Daily News, first drawing city life and then a column of vaudeville illustrations. When The New Yorker began in 1925, Marsh became a staff member, contributing through 1931. These illustration jobs provided Marsh with a good income and a great amount of free time, which allowed him to study painting at the Art Students League on and off through the Twenties with Kenneth Hayes Miller, John Sloan and George Luks. When Marsh began to paint in earnest in 1923, he joined the Whitney Studio Club, where he had one-man exhibitions in 1924 and 1928.

In the early 1920's Marsh made his first trip to Coney Island on a project for Vanity Fair. He was instantly drawn to the raucous environment of extremes, capturing the boardwalks, beaches and sideshows in his sketch books. Marsh often remained in New York for the summer to spend time at Coney Island. The rest of the year Marsh painted industrial subjects which could also be found in the city. He also enjoyed recording the physical and social life of a newly commercialized city, focusing on taxi-dance halls, burlesque, Coney Island, subways and the Bowery. In 1929 Marsh took a studio near Union Square in New York where he remained for most of his life, roaming the streets with his sketch book. The same sketches he worked up for his newspaper and magazine illustrations found their way into his paintings.

The 1930s and 1940s were very successful for Marsh. He exhibited in most of the annual exhibitions of contemporary American art at the Whitney Museum of American Art (1924-1954), the Corcoran Gallery of Art (1932-1957), the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (1932-1952), the Art Institute of Chicago (1928-1949) and the National Academy of Design (1927-1949). He also had many one-man exhibitions at the Frank K. Rehn Galleries in New York. In the fall of 1934, the Treasury Department set up its Section of Painting and Sculpture, a smaller and more selective project than the WPA art projects. Their first project was for two new buildings in Washington, DC. Marsh was commissioned to paint a mural in the Post Office Building, depicting the processing and sorting of mail. Marsh chose to work in fresco, studying with Olle Nordmark, an expert on the fresco technique, before executing the commission. Marsh was also chosen to decorate the rotunda of the U.S. Customs House in New York in 1937, painting eight successive stages in the arrival of an ocean liner to New York Harbor.

Marsh began teaching at the Art Students League in 1935 where he soon became one of the most popular teachers. His interest in the human form culminated in a book, Anatomy for Artists, published in 1945, which was based largely on drawings and paintings of the human body by Old Masters, redrawn by Marsh to demonstrate how the forms were achieved.

In the spring of 1954, Marsh was chosen to receive the gold medal of the National Institute of Arts and Letters, an extremely high award in the American cultural world. Marsh died in July of the same year.

Biography from Spanierman Gallery
Reginald Marsh, renowned for his Depression-era portrayals of New York City life, was born in Paris to American parents, in 1898.   He was raised in Nutley, New Jersey. His artistic career began during his student days at Yale, when he served as the editor and cartoonist for the Yale Record. After graduating in 1920, he spent several years working as an illustrator for various New York based periodicals, including the Daily News, Vanity Fair and the New Yorker. In 1925 he traveled to Europe to study. His life long ambition was to render contemporary life in the style of the Old Masters.

Returning from Europe in 1926, Marsh enrolled in classes at the Art Students' League in New York. His instructors included two of the first generation Ashcan School painters, John Sloan and George Luks, whose urban iconography came to exert an important influence on his art. Following this, Marsh went on to paint murals for the Post Office Building in Washington, D.C. and for the New York Customs House. However, he spent most of his time producing paintings, etchings, lithographs and drawings of such city themes as subways, burlesque halls, Bowery bums, amusement parks and leggy girls on 14th Street. Many of his pictures, executed in watercolor and egg tempera or brush and ink, consist of phantasmagoric views of crowds of people taking part in rowdy yet exuberant social rituals. His vigorous, baroque style in which he emphasized physical action and strongly modeled forms, is firmly rooted in the tradition of such masters as Peter Paul Rubens and Eugene Delacroix. Although his subjects often relate to those of the social realists of the day, Marsh chose to remain aloof from all political entanglement, making his ideas known only through his art.

Marsh taught at the Art Students' League from 1935 until his death in 1954 in Dorset, Vermont. His work, widely acclaimed during his lifetime, can be found in major public and private collections throughout the United States, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Biography from ACME Fine Art
Reginald Marsh

Yale University (A.B.)
Art Students League
and with John Sloan and George Luks

Selected Exhibitions:
Salons of America, 1925,'31-'32,'34
Society of Independent Artists, 1939
Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1932-'57(gold medal '45)
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, 1932-'52
National Academy of Design, 1937(prize)
Art Institute of Chicago, 1931
Whitney Studio Club, 1924,'28
Whitney Museum of American Art, 1955(solo)

Selected Collections:
Museum of Modern Art
Whitney Museum of American Art
Art Institute of Chicago
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
National Museum of American Art
Philadelphia Museum of Art
National Academy of Design
Addison Museum of American Art
Corcoran Gallery of Art
Wadsworth Atheneum
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Fogg Art Museum
Williams College Museum of Art
Norton Museum of Art

Biography from Caldwell Gallery Hudson
Reginald Marsh was a contemporary artist who was an instrumental art figure in the Depression Era of New York City.  He studied at Yale, the Art Students League and Paris, and later learned an egg tempera and emulsion technique when he studied with Jacques Maroger from 1940-46.

He painted scenes of amusement parks, crowded subways, vaudeville and night clubs as well as the busy harbors and railroad stations of New York.

Marsh worked as a staff artist for the New York Daily News  from 1922-25 and continued to be a contributing artist/writer for national magazines such as The New Yorker, Esquire, and Harper's Bazaar.

His retrospective was held at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1955.  Marsh was also a professor at the Art Students League from 1935-54.

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About  Reginald Marsh

Born:  1898 - Paris, France
Died:   1954 - Dorset, Vermont
Known for:  illustration, urban realistic painting-figure and genre

Essays referring to
Reginald Marsh