The Old Print Shop, Inc.
Martin Lewis' New York City
Martin Lewis' New York City
Martin Lewis was an immigrant to the United States being born in Australia. He left home as a young man arriving in the United States in 1900 and in New York City around 1905. His work is often listed as the American Scene, and is realism in the best American tradition. His subjects include New Jersey, Connecticut and Japan, however, he is best known for capturing powerful and evocative images of New York City in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Martin Lewis was a master printmaker, his ability with intaglio, especially drypoint makes him a unique figure in the art world.
His first success as an artist was as a watercolorist, and his first exhibition at Kennedy Galleries was of his watercolors. In it he included a group of his drypoints. The following year he had another exhibition featuring his drypoints and etchings. It was a resounding success for the artist and he spent most of the rest of his life working on prints. This small a small exhibition, many of these images are considered important in the artist’s lexicon.
Printmakers in those days – especially etchers – were enamored of architectural subjects, cathedrals of the past and raising skyscrapers of the future. I expected Lewis to be different, and I was not disappointed. It was not that he was averse to architecture; when he chose to depict a building, the portrayal compared with the west. But he went beyond house fronts and brownstones, their high stoops a reminder of an earlier era, beyond rows of dismal tenements glistening in the rain: Lewis’s architectural renderings served instead as a background for the passing human parade, the pulsating life of the streets. People absorbed in the daily tasks of living concerned Lewis – people going to work, children playing, antics at the beach, flappers dancing the Charleston.
Albert Reese froward "The Prints of Martin Lewis A Catalogue Raisonne" by Paul McCarron.
Martin Lewis c.1928
Martin Lewis c.1935
Martin Lewis is known as the chronicler of the New York scene during the 1920’s and 1930’s. He was born in Australia on June 7, 1880, and arrived in San Francisco in 1900. He is listed in the business directory in New York as a commercial artist by 1909 and was successful. He began making etchings in 1915 and was asked by his friend, Edward Hopper, to teach him the finer points of etching. He moved to Japan in 1920 and stayed for just under two years. During this time he did not make any prints but worked on drawings and paintings, studying Japanese art styles. On his return to New York he immersed himself back into the commercial art world. In 1924 he began making etchings again, those new images were of his Japanese trip. Edith Halpert of the Downtown Gallery was the first formal art gallery to represent the artist. Otto Torrington from Kennedy Galleries offered the artist a show of his watercolors and prints in 1927, and the artist moved to Kennedy Galleries for the remainder of his life. He was the first artist in America to sell out an edition at an exhibition in early 1930: one hundred impressions sold in less than one month.