Reginald Marsh (1898–1954)

Chicago, 1930

Watercolor, over graphite, on cream wove watercolor paper, 13 7/8 x 20 in. (35.2 x 50.8 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Art Acquisition Endowment Fund, 1998.4

The urban-realist painter Reginald Marsh is known for his scenes of New York City, which he showed as vulgar, chaotic, and teeming with life. A departure from his dynamic representations of social types, Chicago displays his sensitivity to urban built environments. This watercolor presents a row of decaying Victorian-era storefronts along a nearly deserted street, with a factory building, water towers, and an exhaust stack looming in the background. Marsh’s 1930 visit to Chicago yielded several images of the city in watercolor, which he applied in rapid lines and washes. Ignoring the recently erected architectural showplaces in the city’s bustling commercial districts, he focused on scenes that captured the anxiety and despair following the stock market crash of October 1929. In Chicago, the woeful condition of these modest structures suggests the glaring contrast between the optimism of the 1920s and the encroaching realities of what became known as the Great Depression.

Learn more about this watercolor on the Terra Foundation website.