Reginald Marsh was a Social Realist artist who depicted life in New York City during the 1920s and 1930s. His work often featured crowded scenes such as Coney Island beach and the Bowery. In 1935, he painted “Hauptmann Must Die,” which is currently held at the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields.
The painting is in egg tempera on Masonite, and it depicts a subtle element of current events and politics. This can be particularly powerful in art that captures a particular moment in time. While Marsh was part of the Fourteenth Street School of artists in New York, focusing on working men and women, this painting departs from his usual subject matter to confront an event that shook America at its core.
This painting refers to Bruno Hauptmann’s trial, who was convicted for kidnapping Charles Lindbergh’s son. The outpouring of public grief over this incredibly high-profile case resulted in many artworks taking up the theme – including this somber depiction by Marsh. The image is meant to provoke anger towards Hauptmann, someone who committed an unforgivable act against pure innocence. Through his masterful brushwork, Marsh makes clear his own feelings about this crime with his unflinching portrayal.