1870 Rutherford, New Jersey – Addison, Maine 1953
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Brooklyn Bridge No. 6 (Swaying) 1913
etching on wove paper; 175 x 219 mm (6 ⅞ x 8 ⅝ inches)
signed in pencil at lower right
A superb, richly inked impression, with selectively wiped plate-tone; with full margins and in
The print is scarce. The edition published by Stieglitz in 1913 comprised only about twelve impressions; the edition published as part of the New Republic portfolio in 1924 is unknown but
also very small.
Brooklyn Bridge No. 6 (Swaying) was first published by Alfred Stieglitz in 1913 and a small number of later impressions were printed in 1924 as the print was originally intended for inclusion in the New Republic portfolio, Six American Etchings. Only a few impressions were pulled before it was replaced by Marin’s Downtown, the El. Indeed, Carl Zigrosser was not aware that Brooklyn Bridge No. 6 (Swaying) was included in the set when he wrote the catalogue raisonné of Marin’s etchings in 1969; later, when he learned of its initial inclusion, he suggested that perhaps the plate had broken early in the run, and this hypothesis has been repeated through the years. A more likely explanation is that Downtown, the El was substituted because it is about the same size as the other prints in the set while Brooklyn Bridge No. 6 (Swaying) is much larger; a same-size plate would have facilitated the printing of a large edition. Each of the plates was purchased by the New Republic but, along with the paper’s records for 1924–25, they were lost or destroyed.
The Brooklyn Bridge had been built in 1883 in a traditional gothic style but, as the first steelwire suspension bridge, it was also an extraordinary example of a structure based on the latest technological developments. In his etching, Marin uses a series of urgent lines to express the motion of the swaying bridge, emphasizing the modernity of its physical structure over the decorative forms, creating an image that is among the most freely expressionistic of his career. And unlike those of Hopper and Lewis, Marin’s cityscapes are largely devoid of anecdotal incident. The sole figure on the bridge is a man whose blurry legs suggest the hurried motion demanded by life in the modern city.
Brooklyn Bridge and Lower New York 1913
etching and drypoint on wove paper; 175 x 225 mm (6 ⅞ x 8 ⅞ inches)
signed in pencil below the image at right and inscribed in pencil by the artist in the lower-left margin Printed by John Marin / sent out by 291Zigrosser 106 second (final) state
Agnes and Eugene Meyer, Mount Kisco, N.Y.
A very fine impression of this great rarity, printed with a veil of plate tone carefully wiped to lighten the center of the composition; the full sheet, in very good condition.
The composition was completed in the first state, known in only a few impressions; in the second state Marin added drypoint accents to the structures below the bridge, the boats in the river, the sky, and to the bridge itself.
Brooklyn Bridge and Lower New York was among the earliest prints that Marin made in a style reflecting his European artistic background. Like Brooklyn Bridge No. 6 (Swaying) (see cat. no. TK), it was made the same year that the Armory Show in New York introduced a wider group of American artists to European modernist idioms. After two years at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1899–1901, Marin had studied briefly at the Art Students League in New York before leaving for an extended trip to Europe in 1905. During this period he taught himself etching and by the time he returned to New York in 1911, he had produced more than one hundred accomplished works in the technique, mainly architectural views of European cities reflecting the impressionistic influence of Whistler. Soon after his return, Marin was taken on by Alfred Stieglitz at his famously avant-garde 291 Gallery and began to work in a vigorous modernist style appropriate to the extraordinarily vibrant new cityscape that had begun to emerge in his absence. In a catalogue for an exhibition of his modernist watercolors held at the gallery in 1913, Marin relays his powerful emotional response to the city:
“… if these buildings move me, they too must have life. Thus the whole city is alive; buildings, people all are alive; and the more they move me the more I feel them to be alive … And so I try to express graphically what a great city is doing. Within the frames there must be a balance, a controlling of these warring, pushing, pulling forces” (cited in cat. London, American Scene, p. 68).
In this print, Marin does not represent the volumes of the individual structures in space but rather fuses the bridge and the cityscape in an overall pattern described with short vertical lines evoking the dynamism of the modern urban environment. The print was published by Stieglitz. Zigrosser states that there was an edition of 25 prints on WHATMAN paper plus a large edition after steel-facing on VAN GELDER paper for the portfolio titled Six American Etchings published by the left-wing periodical, New Republic, in 1924. However, this print was, in fact, never intended for nor included in that portfolio. Brooklyn Bridge No. 6 (Swaying) (Zigrosser 112) was initially included in it but was ultimately substituted by Downtown, the El (Zigrosser 134). Further, the figure for the edition of 25 may not be accurate either; Zigrosser knew of only about a half dozen impressions (those in major museums) and the print is very rarely seen on the market.