Opera Box


Reginald Marsh (1898-1954), Opera Box, 1936, engraving, signed, numbered and annotated in pencil (State II 4/5, “to Dolsy and Eddie”); one of only 11 proofs. Reference: Sasowsky 162, second state of three. In very good condition, with wide margins (not shown in the illustration, and also somewhat uneven, as trimmed by the artist), 7 x 5, the sheet 9 3/4 x 7 1/4 inches, archival mounting.

A superb black impression of this very rare print.

Only five impressions were made of this print in this state (one of the first state, and five of the third; eleven altogether). The design was basically complete in the first state, some shadows behind the men’s heads added in the second state, and only minor additions made for the third state.

Marsh may have intended a larger edition (of 40 according to his notebook), but as with virtually all of his prints, the actual number printed – by Marsh personally – was far smaller than the intended edition.  This impression was printed by Marsh after the impression now in the New York Public Library, which is the repository of his wife’s collection.

Opera Box was made at the height of the Great Depression; one suspects that Marsh – Yale graduate though he was – was making a statement about the distribution of suffering at the time. And of course the serious artist comes through too; Marsh had studied not only The Eight – the Americans Henri, Sloan, Glackens et al – but also had great reverence for, and familiarity with the work of the European masters of the Renaissance and Baroque, as well as printmakers such as Daumier and Hogarth.  The incisiveness of these portraits is accentuated by the incisiveness of the method he employs in this print – engraving – a difficult technique, but one which works perfectly to model this group portrait.