Seventy-one prints and photographs created by Martin Lewis (1881–1962), a significant American printmaker best known for his exuberant depictions of New York City in the 1930s and ‘40s, and his photographer contemporaries will be presented at the Brooklyn Museum of Art from July 3 through October 25, 1998. The Museum has one of the finest public collections of Lewis prints, from which this exhibition has been selected. Martin Lewis’s World: Cityscapes on Paper includes works created from the early part of the twentieth century to the 1950s. Trained in Australia, where he was born, Lewis came to the United States in 1900. It was not until 1915 that he developed a distinctive style of etching and drypoint, which became his preferred medium and the one in which most of the works in the exhibition were executed.
Martin Lewis was fascinated by the bustling nightlife of New York. He particularly liked to depict night scenes because of the opportunity they presented to work with shadow and light. Among the works included are Subway Steps, 1930, which captures New Yorkers exiting and entering the subway; Manhattan Lights, 1931, a juxtaposition of three human figures in darkness against the towering light of the Empire State Building; and Shadow Dance, 1930, which presents silhouettes of faceless New Yorkers at night against a brilliant background of city lights.
The exhibition, which in part explores how a growing New York City appeared in the images of both printmakers and photographers, will also include photographs from the same period that explore similar subject matter. Among the photographers represented are Berenice Abbott, Lewis Hine, Adolf Fassbender, and Arthur Leipzig.
Most of the Martin Lewis prints were a gift to the Museum from Esta Nichols in memory of her husband Dudley Nichols, a close friend of the photographer. Marilyn Kushner, curator of Prints and Drawings, and Barbara Head Millstein, curator of Photography, organized the exhibition.