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Martin Lewis
(Australia, 1881-1962)

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Martin Lewis was among the most accomplished printmakers working in the United States during the 1920s and 1930s. He was an acute observer, best known for his striking views of New York City and the countrysides of Japan and Connecticut. At the core of his success in conveying the essence of a scene or in suggesting complex visual phenomena was his exceptional ability to draw.

In his maturity Lewis concentrated on the portrayal of the fleeting moment. Primarily through the use of line, he presented with great conviction ephemeral conditions that are very difficult to draw such as blazing sunlight, looming shadows, gradations of darkness, driving rain, gusting wind, and blowing snow.

Martin Lewis was born in Castlemaine, Australia, on June 4, 1881. By the age of fifteen, he left home to pursue a life of adventure in the outbacks of New South Wales and New Zealand. He worked odd jobs on both land and sea, all the while developing as an artist. Lewis was briefly associated with a bohemian art colony near Sydney and received some training at the Art Society's school there before emigrating to the United States in 1900, where he hoped to find greater opportunities as an artist. He arrived in San Francisco and spent a number of years working around the country before settling in New York City in about 1909.

In 1910 Lewis traveled briefly to London to visit one of his brothers. He traveled again in 1920, to Japan where he lived until 1922. Returning to New York, Lewis balanced a very successful career as a commercial artist with his interest in making fine art. His prints and watercolors had appeared in several exhibitions at Kennedy & Company, a gallery in New York, but his big breakthrough occurred in 1929 when Kennedy gave him a solo exhibition of prints. The critical and popular acclaim that this show received convinced Lewis to abandon his commercial work.

The severity of the Great Depression forced Lewis to leave New York for a more economical life in rural Connecticut in the early 1930s, but a dislike of the countryside propelled him to return to the city by 1936. The World War II years (1941-1945) mark another major dividing point in Lewis's life. Because of financial concerns, he took a job in a munitions plant. By the end of the war, the art world had changed so significantly in favor of abstract subject matter that there was virtually no market for Lewis's realistic compositions, and from 1944 to 1952 he taught at the Art Students League in New York.

 

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The Great Shadow

 

Night in New York

Late 19th and early 20th century American art with an emphasis on the 1930s since 1977
international fine print dealers association