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Girl Walking in Front of New York City Brownstone

North America, United States

Reginald Marsh (Paris, France, 1898 - 1954, Dorset, Vermont)

20th century CE
Pen and ink with blue wash on wove paper, 10 5/16 x 8 11/16 in.
Gift of The Frederick and Lucy S. Herman Foundation, 2006.11.39
© Estate of Reginald Marsh/Art Students League, New York/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Object Type: Drawing and Watercolor

Goedde Class
Traces of the Hand: Master Drawings from the Collection of Frederic and Lucy S. Herman | January 25, 2013 - May 26, 2013

Reginald Marsh
American, 1898–1954
Girl Walking in Front of New York City Brownstone, 1949
Pen and ink with blue wash on wove paper, 10 5½16 x 8 11½16 in (26.19 x 22.07 cm) (sheet)
Inscriptions: (recto) lower right, signature: “Reginald Marsh 1949”; (verso) a hand-drawn stamp collecting template in ink; and framer’s notes in pencil
Provenance: Purchased from the artist in 1949
Gift of The Frederick and Lucy S. Herman Foundation, 2006.11.39

Though born in Paris, Reginald Marsh spent most of his life in America and began taking art classes from the Ashcan School artist John Sloan when he attended Yale in 1916. The Ashcan artists were characterized by their depiction of the lower working class, a subject previously deemed too lowly for American art.1 Marsh, like Sloan, dedicated his career to depicting the reality of the city around him, and yet to complement this modern subject, Marsh frequently drew upon the works of old masters like Rubens and Delacroix. The influence of Rubenesque female types is especially apparent in this drawing.2

In New York Marsh observed people walking by his Fourteenth Street studio, going about their everyday lives, and these were the figures that inspired his work.3 Marsh was seldom without his sketchpad, which he would fill with observations and rough drawings; he sometimes took photographs of the things he wished to remember in more detail.4 Occasionally, he would even approach people and ask them to pose a certain way in order to play out a scene he was envisioning. Marsh would then return to his studio to complete his finished drawings and paintings. His work “represents observed, remembered, and imagined forms.”5 It fuses his real-world observations, his artistic training, and his vibrant imagination to create a unique perspective on the world around him. Comparing this completed drawing to sketches of comparable women, one can see how Marsh began with sketches from life and filled in the gaps in the studio.6 The meticulous construction of this composition, juxtaposing the natural curves of the woman with the rectilinear geometries of the architecture behind her, evinces Marsh’s characteristic re-envisioning of a transient moment.

The Herman drawing is an example of the “Marsh Girl,” a type that he was famous for and that firmly departs from Charles Dana Gibson’s “Gibson Girl” from the beginning of the twentieth century.7 Instead of the idealized, conservatively dressed woman typical of Gibson’s art, Marsh chose to render more voluptuous, fleshy women, the kind of women he might find walking around the city, and that populate his sketches, drawings, and paintings.

Ashleigh Coren
Siobhan Donnelly

1Ellen Wiley Todd, “Sex for Sale: Reginald Marsh’s Voluptuous Shopper,” in The “New Woman” Revised: Painting and Gender Politics on Fourteenth Street, Berkeley, CA, 1993, 18.
2Catherine Behl, in Chappell, Form, Function, 120.
3Erika L. Doss, “Images of American Women in the 1930s: Reginald Marsh and ‘Paramount Picture’,” Women’s Art Journal, 4, 1983–1984, 1.
4Thomas H. Garver, “Reginald Marsh and the City that Never Was,” Introduction to Reginald Marsh: A Retrospective Exhibition, Newport Beach, CA: Newport Harbor Art Museum, 1972.
5Norman Sasowsky, The Prints of Reginald Marsh: An Essay and Definitive Catalog of His Linoleum Cuts, Etchings, Engravings, and Lithographs, New York, 1976, 38.
6Reginald Marsh, Sketchbook No. 27, 14 July 1942–2 Nov 1947, Archives of American Art. See
7Todd, “Sex for Sale,” 5–7.

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