Martin Lewis (1881–1962), East Side Night, Williamsburg Bridge

Posted on July 22nd, 2014 by

East Side Night, Williamsburg BridgeMartin Lewis (1881–1962)
East Side Night, Williamsburg Bridge, 1928
Etching on paper, 9 7⁄8 x 11 15⁄16 inches
Hillstrom Museum of Art purchase with endowment acquisition funds

Lewis was born in Australia and studied art in Sydney. In 1900, he sailed for San Francisco, joining a crew painting decorations for McKinley’s presidential campaign. He later moved to New York City. Although he also worked as a painter, in 1915 Lewis became interested in etching, and he eventually created nearly 150 prints, many of them images of New York City, a favorite subject. While the title of this print indicates that the subject is the Williamsburg Bridge (which when it opened in late 1903 was the second bridge to span the East River and was then the longest suspension bridge in the world), little of the actual particulars of the Bridge can be discerned, and it is the “East Side Night” part of the title that is more important. In the lower right corner is seen a female pedestrian, out on an evening stroll. A man stands off to the side, looking over the dimly lit city below. He stands next to an ornate metal railing, the pattern of which casts looming shadows on the heavily corniced structure that occupies most of the right side of the etching. Around the corner from the man is an open doorway of a men’s room from which flows light that contrasts with the floodlighting of the Bridge, which causes almost menacing shadows. A critic writing three years after Lewis made this print described it: “A darkling vista, pierced by artificial light in masses, streaks and glittering spots, in planes of recession, is East Side Night—Williamsburg Bridge, and here the artist appears to have found a design after his heart, from the angle of the bridge, above a wide range of humble buildings, to where in the distance structural shapes tower in silhouettes against a lightened sky.”

Text from the catalogue for the exhibition The Eight, The Ashcan School, and The American Scene in the Hillstrom Collection, presented in the Hillstrom Museum of Art February 25 through April 21, 2013.

 

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