Reginald Marsh
(1898–1954)

Reginald Marsh was born in Paris to American parents. When he and has family returned to the States they settled first in New Jersey and then moved to New Rochelle, New York. Marsh attended Yale University and after graduating took a job as an illustrator for the New York Daily News. It wasn’t until the late 1920s that Marsh began using the subjects of his drawings as the subjects of his art. Although he was a master draftsman, Marsh was largely self-taught, taking cues from such artists as Robert Henri, who argued that the artist’s role should be to “make a stir in the world.” Along with his work at newspaper, Marsh did illustrations for a variety of magazines, making his radical political opinions heard in each.

When Marsh finally began making paintings, he was drawn to the watercolor medium, as it best matched his drawing skills. His choice of subject matter was always urban life in Manhattan; he devoted his career to depicting people in a realist style going about their everyday business. Some of Marsh’s favorite subjects were the Bowery, burlesque shows, moviegoers, crowded subways and elevated trains, and particularly the sunbathers at Coney Island. Marsh was much influenced by such other American realists as John Sloan, George Luks, and Kenneth Hayes Miller. 

In the 1930s Marsh painted murals for the WPA, and became an influential artist of the Depression era. His reputation carried through the Second World War, and in 1943 he was elected as a full academician at the National Academy of Design. In 1955, a year after his death, the Whitney Museum of American Art held Marsh’s first retrospective exhibition. His works are part of renowned collections throughout the world.