Reginald Marsh

artist artwork
Born on March 14, 1898 in an apartment over Cafe du Dome in Paris to Americans Fred Dana Marsh and Alice Randall. His father was one of the first American painters to picture modern industry; his mother painted miniatures.The family moved to the New York suburb of Nutley, New Jersey when Marsh was two years old. Marsh had little formal art training and learned by the artistic environment of his father's studio. His education was conventional;Lawrenceville School and Yale. He was the star illustrator for The Yale Recordand graduated in 1920. As a free-lance illustrator in New York, Marsh's work appeared in newspapers and magazines. On staff at the New York Daily News he drew city subjects and did not take painting seriously, stating that it seemed "a laborious way to make a bad drawing." In 1923 he began studying at the Art Students League and was influenced by the work of the Ashcan painters Thomas Eakins, George Luks and John Sloan.

In 1925 he went abroad and studied the European Old Masters which is apparent in his workafter returning home. He devoted his full attention to painting using the social spectrum of New York City as his subject matter: the streets, the subway, burlesque houses, night clubs, Harlem, the Bowery, Coney Island, the waterfront. Humanity was always at the center, he liked the vitality and variety of popular life. The public display of sex fascinated Marsh the female body is a constant motif in his work. He sketched constantly and drew from the nude almost every day.

When the depression came with the 1930's, Marsh's work was well-suited for the mural painting revival that came when the Treasure Department Art Program was launched. He was one of twelve painters selected to work on frescoes for the government. This included the Washington D.C. Post Office Building and the ambitious Custom House in New York. Throughout the forties his work gained increasing freedom, where subject matter became a springboard for pictorial invention less connected with reality.

Unfortunately, Marsh died from a heart attack on July 3, 1954 at the age of fifty-six. His untimely death robbed the art community of a major force in American art. Marsh's work can be found in the permanent collections of the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, Library of Congress, Wadsworth Atheneum, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Metropolitan Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.