America Is Hard to See

Solo en Inglès

This audio guide highlights selected works by artists in America Is Hard to See. Curators, scholars, and artists provide additional commentary.

703Reginald Marsh, Twenty Cent Movie, 1936


Reginald Marsh (1898-1954), Twenty Cent Movie, 1936. Carbon pencil, ink, and oil on composition board, 30 × 40 in. (76.2 × 101.6 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase 37.43a-b © 2015 The Estate of Reginald Marsh/Art Students League, © 2015 Estate of Reginald Marsh/Art Students League, New York/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, NY

NARRATOR: Adam Weinberg is Alice Pratt Brown Director of the Whitney Museum.

ADAM WEINBERG: In October of 1929, the stock market crashed, and with it went the optimism of the 1920s.  

EDDIE CANTOR: Nowadays, when a man walks into a hotel, and requests a room on the 19th floor, the clerk asks him, ‘for sleeping or jumping?’

ADAM WEINBERG: Movie theaters—like the one in this painting by Reginald Marsh—offered a temporary escape from the hardships of everyday life. In the 1930s, more than half of all Americans went to the movies every week.  

This is the Lyric Theater. At the theater’s entrance, colorful posters appeal to popular fantasies—“Stripped Bare,” “Joys of the Flesh.” Glamorous Hollywood film stars hover overhead. On the sidewalk, the artist has captured a representative cast of characters, who are themselves straight out of the movies—the glamorous blonde, the Don Juan with a rakish hat, a gangster-type smoking a cigar, and a pair of working girls. 

American artists like Marsh took a new interest in the small dramas of city life.