In 1948, a Look magazine poll of art critics and museum directors voted John Marin “America’s Greatest Artist.” Known for his images of land and sea, Marin also turned his attention to the urban landscape, including the new skyscrapers of Lower Manhattan depicted here, framed by an oval shape as if seen through a window. With their vertiginous heights and boxy shapes, skyscrapers were ideal subjects for the dynamic, geometric styles of early twentieth-century art, which influenced Marin early in his career. By rendering the skyscrapers with energetic diagonals and rapidly applied paint, Marin connected them to the excitement of city life. Commenting on these new structures in a 1913 issue of Camera Work, Marin argued that “the whole city is alive; buildings, people, all are alive.” If you look closely, you may notice that the window through which we view these “living” buildings is shaped like an artist’s palette, creating an analogy between the “construction” of cities and of paintings—both of which are part of modern life.
Label from Window to Wall: Art from Architecture, November 18, 2017–March 18, 2018