Martin Lewis, Little Penthouse, a drypoint

United States of America, AD 1931

Martin Lewis (1880–1962) was born and raised in Castlemaine, Australia. By 1900 he had emigrated to the United States of America, where he settled in New York and found work in commercial illustration. Following the success of his first solo exhibition in 1929, Lewis gave up commercial work to focus on printmaking. However, struck by the effects of the Depression, Lewis was forced to leave New York in 1932 and, although he returned to the city in 1936, public interest in his etchings had ceased and by his death he was a forgotten artist.

Lewis concentrated on drypoints of New York City observed under different weather conditions and at different times of day, particularly at night. Little Penthouse was included in the deluxe edition of American Etchers, a series of 12 volumes devoted to contemporary American printmakers published in New York. This comes from volume XI devoted to Martin Lewis.

In this drypoint the use of exaggerated lighting effects contributes to the sense of impending drama. Lewis’s depiction of the cityscape at night-time draws parallels with film noir, a genre with which he was familiar. He was a friend of the film noir screenwriter Dudley Nichols, who owned a collection of his work.

P. McCarron, The Prints of Martin Lewis (New York, M. Hausberg, 1995)

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Image: © The estate of Martin Lewis, Courtesy Robert K. Newman, The Old Print Shop, Inc., New York

Height: 25.3 cm
Width: 17.5 cm

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