1898 Paris – Dorset, Vermont 1954

Opera Box 1936

engraving on wove paper; 178 x 127 mm (7 x 5 inches)

signed, numbered II 4/5, and dedicated to Dolsy and Eddie, all in pencil below the image

Sasowsky 162 second state (of three)


A superb black impression; in very good condition, with somewhat uneven margins (probably as trimmed by the artist).

Very rare. Only five impressions were made of the print in this second state (there is one of the first state, and five of the third). The composition was basically complete in the first state; the artist added some shadows behind the men’s heads in the second state, and only minor changes in the third. Marsh may have planned a larger edition (of 40 according to his notebook), but as with virtually all of his prints, the actual number printed (by Marsh himself ) was far smaller than originally intended.

Marsh was born in Paris to American artist parents; the family returned to the United States in 1900, settling in Nutley, New Jersey. After graduating from Yale University in 1920, where he had begun to draw for the student journal, the Yale Record, Marsh worked in New York as an illustrator, not least for the New Yorker when it launched in 1925, and attended classes at the Art Students League. But he was largely self-taught as a printmaker. In 1921 he produced a series of 33 woodcuts; however, the core of his printed oeuvre of 269 prints comprises etchings and engravings on copper. Marsh took the life of New York City as his chief subject, most famously in gritty scenes like those in the etchings Tattoo-Shave-Haircut and Breadline – No One has Starved, both of 1932 (Sasowsky 140 and 139), and a series of 20 prints on burlesque and striptease shows. Opera Box, with its group of grotesquely caricatured society types at leisure in their finery in a lavishly decorated opera box, was surely intended as an oblique commentary on the extreme social injustice of this period during the Depression.