Downtown, The El

John Marin (1870-1953), Downtown, The El, etching, 1921, signed in pencil lower left (also signed and dated in the plate). Reference: Zigrosser 134, only state.† Published initially by Alfred Stieglitz and then included as part of the Folio of American Etchings by the magazine The New Republic in 1924, in an edition of unknown size but probably above 500.† In very good condition, the full sheet, on Van Gelder wove paper, 6 3/4 x 8 3/4, the sheet 11 x 13 3/4 inches.

Provenance: Hirschl and Adler Galleries, Inc., New York, New York.

A fine bright impression.

Initially the New Republic Set, sometimes known as Six American Etchings, contained Marin’s Brooklyn Bridge No. 6 (Swaying) (Zigrosser 112).† But after a small number of sets were completed, Downtown the El was substituted for Zigrosser 112 (and so the number of† Downtown The Els in the set would have been a bit fewer than the others in the set).† Zigrosser, who apparently had not seen a complete set at the time he created the catalogue raisonne, conjectured that the substitution might have been because the original plate was damaged.†† But since the printer, Peter Platt, was the most renowned artist’s printer of his time, and worked alone, it is unlikely that he would have damaged the plate; a more likely possibility is that he switched to a print that was more comparable in size to the others in the set (The Brooklyn Bridge print was much larger), and Downtown The El is about the same size as the others† (the other prints were Peggy Bacon: The Promenade Deck; Ernest Haskell: The Sentinels of North Creek; Edward Hopper: Night Shadows; Hayes Miller: Play; and John Sloan: Banditís Cave).

Downtown The El is one of Marin’s early – and influential – modernist prints, made after his style changed from the British Etchers/Whistlerian idiom. It has also been called Park Row, and Downtown New York.† The El is no longer there, but the building in the center, the Woolworth Building, still stands.