Reginald Marsh’s reputation is based on his spirited vision of the life of the working class in New York. Born in France to American parents, both of whom were artists, he was brought to the United States at the age of two. He graduated in 1920 from Yale University, where he had begun his study of art. He started his career by working as an illustrator for various newspapers and magazines, including the New York Daily News, 1922-25, and The New Yorker, 1925-31. During the 1920s he also designed sets for the theater. He continued to study sporadically, at the Art Students League with George Bridgman (1864-1943), GEORGE LUKS, and KENNETH HAYES MILLER, and later by copying old-master paintings during several trips abroad. Marsh became associated with the Whitney Studio Club, where he was given his first solo exhibition in 1924.
The late 1920s marked the beginning of Marsh’s mature period, for which he is best known. His most famous paintings of burlesque halls, the Bowery, the Fourteenth Street area, and Coney Island date from the 1930s or early 1940s. During this period he also began working in new mediums, including egg tempera, etching, and lithography. In 1934 he studied anatomy, and his book Anatomy for Artists (1945) revealed not only his great knowledge of the subject but also the important role Renaissance art played in his painting. During the Great Depression he received two major mural commissions-painting frescoes for the Post Office Building in Washington, D.C., and the United States Customs House in New York. Always fascinated by technical aspects of painting, in 1939 he temporarily abandoned the egg tempera medium and the following year began studying the emulsion technique developed by Jacques Maroger. During the 1940s he worked extensively in watercolor and ink. Marsh was a popular instructor at the Art Students League in New York, where he taught from 1935 until his death in 1954, and at the Moore Institute of Art, Science, and Industry in Philadelphia, where he lectured for five years beginning in 1949.
Archiv. Am. Art, Reginald Marsh Papers (portions on microfilm) § New York, Whitney Museum of Ameri can Art, and others, Reginald Marsh, exh. cat., 1955, with text by Lloyd Goodrich, extensive bibliography compiled by Rosalind Irvine § Norman Sasowsky, Reginald Marsh: Etchings, Engravings, Lithographs (New York: Praeger, 1956), with preface by A. Hyatt Mayor, introduction by Isabel Bishop § Lloyd Goodrich, Reginald Marsh (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1972), with bibliography § Marilyn Cohen, Reginald Marsh’s New York: Paintings, Drawings, Prints, and Photographs (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art in association with Dover Publications, 1983), with bibliography, checklist of exhibition held at Whitney Museum of American Art at Philip Morris and others.