1881 Castlemaine, Victoria, Australia – New York 1962
American Nocturne 1937
lithograph on wove paper; 250 x 365 mm (9 7/8 x 14 3/8 inches)
signed by the artist in pencil at lower right
McCarron 125 only state
Armin Landeck (artist and friend of Lewis)
Paul McCarron, New York
A fine impression of this great rarity, printed on a cream-colored wove paper; in very good condition with full margins.
McCarron notes that there were 17 recorded impressions of American Nocturne. In his label for this print (appended to the mat) McCarron notes that according to Lewis’s notebook only 8–14 impressions were made.
Lewis was born in Australia but immigrated to the United States in 1900, where he took on work as a commercial illustrator in New York. In 1915, he began to make etchings (and indeed, trained Edward Hopper in the technique). After a period in Japan between 1920 and 1921, Lewis returned to New York and began to produce drypoints inspired by Japanese ukiyo-e prints. From 1928 he began to make drypoints of New York City at different times of day and under different weather conditions. Kennedy Galleries offered him a solo show in 1929 and went on to publish 17 new prints by the artist over the next two years, a successful run that was only ended by the Depression; in 1932 Lewis retreated to Sandy Hook, Connecticut.
American Nocturne was made a year after Lewis’s return to New York but nonetheless suggests a kind of nostalgia for the small-town life he had left behind. There is ultimately nothing really charming about the image, however. Indeed, the shadowy black-and-white scene, with its row of identical rooftops and the man leaning into the window of the luxurious car suggesting a slightly sinister narrative, evokes the highly stylized effects of the American film noirs of this period.