Platemark: 24.7 x 24.7 cm (9 3/4 x 9 3/4 in.); Sheet: 33 x 40.4 cm (13 x 15 7/8 in.)
Gift of Charlotte Trenkamp in memory of Henry Trenkamp, Jr. 1993.186
© Estate of Reginald Marsh / Art Students League, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Catalogue raisonné: Sasowsky 153
Coney Island, located on an Atlantic Ocean beach in the borough of Brooklyn, became a resort for urban inhabitants in 1875, when the railroad opened regular service to the outer borough.
No corner of New York City escaped Reginald Marsh’s observation, but his favorite subject was the beach of Coney Island, where, he said, “a million near-naked bodies could be seen at once, a phenomenon unparalleled in history.” The human pyramids in both of these compositions imply ample physical touching, and, indeed, critics described Marsh’s beach crowds as “vulgar, sweating, bestial.” The toppled pyramids and twisting forms recall Renaissance paintings, such as Michelangelo’s Battle of Cascina from 1504. Unlike Michelangelo, however, Marsh tended to focus on the buxom siren or femme fatale, a trope of Hollywood cinema in the 1930s.
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