NARRATOR: Artist Nicole Eisenmann discusses Reginald Marsh’s painting, Negroes on Rockaway Beach.
NICOLEEISENMANN: Reginald Marsh loved New York City. He went to the theater, dance halls, the subway and, of course, Coney Island to find his favorite subject matter, crowds of people and bodies in motion, specifically the female figure. Marsh’s sense of anatomy is sensual. His figures typified in the painting, Negroes on Rockaway Beach, are voluptuous and sexy. To me this painting visually begins with the Black women who are lying across each other’s laps and then in fantastically active patterns of limbs and darks and lights, the composition spirals out to the upper right, where men wrestle and finally one guy runs right into the edge of the painting.
Our eye then slides down to a lower right to rest on what becomes the subtext of the story. A white woman turns her back on us, the viewer, and the orgiastic crowd and reads a society gossip rag. Maybe this is Marsh’s sly commentary on how we often want to see ourselves mirrored in the celebrity dramas written about in the press, while ignoring the more democratic human drama that we are constantly surrounded by in the crowds of New York.