Why Not Use the L (1930) by Reginald Marsh

Why Not Use the L - Reginald Marsh - 1930

Artwork Information

TitleWhy Not Use the L
ArtistReginald Marsh
MediumEgg tempera on Canvas
Dimensions36 x 48 in (91.4 x 121.9 cm)
Current LocationWhitney Museum of American Art, New York

About Why Not Use the L

Reginald Marsh was an American painter who worked within the style known as Social Realism. His typical habit was to make frequent visits to New York City’s Coney Island as well as Union Square, painting his strange and humorous scenes of everyday life. In addition to painting, Marsh also became an avid photographer during the 1930s, making use of photographs both as reference material in his paintings and for independent documentation of what he saw. He would often combine figures or groups from multiple photographs onto a single canvas in order to create a more complicated composition—drawing out the idiosyncrasies of these ‘ordinary’ lives unlike many other painters before him.

One of Marsh’s most famous works is ‘Why Not Use The L?’, painted between 1930 and 1931, depicting commuters on a subway platform in Union Square. It was quickly followed by his 1932 Hudson Bay Fur Company piece which illustrates the fictitious shop for fur goods that sat across from his studio window at 111 Greenwich Street in New York City. Works like this remain timeless testaments to Marsh’s impressive ability for depicting everyday people and situations in urban environments during one of America’s most dramatic times.

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