Martin Lewis was born on June 7, 1881 in Castlemaine, Australia. He had a passion for drawing. In 1900 he left for the United States. By 1909 he was living and working in New York City. With the exception of a few years, he spent the rest of his life in and around the city.
His earliest etching dates from 1915 but shows a technical ability that suggests that he had been working in the medium for some time. To back up that feeling, a friend and fellow artist, Edward Hopper, asked him for technical advice on etching in 1915. Lewis produced many memorable images of New York City. The period of 1925 through 1935 was his most productive. He died largely forgotten.
Here and above we see the Martin Lewis girls in their cloche hats, bobbed hair and tight skirts and his love of light and dark.
Bedford Street Gang
These pictures almost demand a scenario. I can almost see a very young Jimmy Cagney under one of these street kids’ caps.
Rainy Day In Queens
I know of no one else who so consistently catches the sunlight of this city – what Cheever once called, “the water light” as even from behind clouds the sun reflects off the harbor and the Hudson.
Stoops in Snow
Again the play of light on a grey day with New Yorkers always ready for anything but never quite prepared for snow.
Who is this woman plunging alone down the subway stairs on a street not empty or deserted but with no one close to her? I will never see this picture and not wonder where she’s going.
Quarter of Nine – Saturday’s Children
How well he captures the way light finds its way over buildings and around them and the grim detirmination of the morning crowd making its way to work.
I know I’ve seen this corner at this hour of the night in one of the low-rise neighborhoods that still exist in this city. This is Hopper’s world but done in the proper black and white and grey of this city once upon a time.
There are plenty more Martin Lewis prints including many set in the city of New York. He’s undergone a revival in the last twenty years but I believe he’s still much under-appreciated.