Reginald Marsh 1898-1954
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In 1936 during the heart of the Works Progress Administration, Reginald Marsh was invited to contribute a series of mural decorations to the rotunda of the Alexander Hamilton Custom House in New York. The marvelous 1907 structure, designed by Cass Gilbert, is one of the standards of Beaux-Arts architecture and is adorned with period decor by Daniel Chester French and other leading artists of the day. Marsh introduced a more dramatic and modern flair to the building, in keeping with the boisterous modern voice of the city. Marsh submitted a series of paintings depicting leading ocean liners of the day which served to transport the masses between Europe and New York.

Reginald Marsh was by no means the traditional starving artist of the day. A graduate of the Lawrenceville School and Yale University, Marsh was born in Paris to a well-to-do American family, the wealth acquired generations earlier in the meatpacking business. Marsh’s parents were both artists and encouraged him to follow the same path. After graduating Yale in 1920, he settled in New York, enrolled at the Art Students League, and set out on a career during which he created a unique body of work that captures the energy and bustle of Manhattan in the 1920s and 1930s. Marsh’s favored subjects were the street urchins, prostitutes and vaudeville actors of lower Manhattan. He also embraced Coney Island and the harbors of lower Manhattan and Battery Park. Wherever masses of humanity gathered about in close proximity to one another, Reginald Marsh set up his easel and dug into the human condition and the grotesque, amusing, delightful and bawdy.