John Haber reviews the exhibition Reginald Marsh and Thirties New York at the New York Historical Society, on view through September 1, 2013.
Haber writes: "Although [Marsh] learned his bulky forms at the conservative Art Students League, where Kenneth Hayes Miller and Guy Pene de Bois tempered their Modernism with reverence for the past, Marsh alone stuck to egg tempera on composition board and masonite. And he liked it not because of its traditions of gilding and hand-ground pigments, but because it dries fast, so that painting became sketching on the spot... [Marsh] is not a realist like George Bellows, cutting corners when it comes to the facts in favor of a greater drama of place and class. Nor is he even quite an American Surrealist like George Tooker, for whom terror lurks behind every pillar in the subway. He is most definitely not a poet, a chronicler, or a formalist like Berenice Abbott, for whom a subway newsstand becomes a sea of histories and texts."