Skip to navigation

Downtown the El

Marin, John

Downtown the El

etching on paper

1991 Purchase funded by The Collectors Club

This etching reveals John Marin's personal style that took root while he lived in Paris from 1905 to 1909. He returned to New York in 1909 for an exhibition at the 291 Gallery and became a member of Alfred Stieglitz's group of artists where he was introduced to avant-garde ideas. He liked to capture the atmosphere, tension and energy of a scene. Marin was fascinated with the skyline of New York City. "I see great forces at work -- great movements -- the large buildings and the small buildings -- the warring of the great and the small -- influences of one mass on another."

"Downtown, The El" expresses the energy of the city through bold diagonal lines that cut across the composition. Marin's interest in buildings came from his early career as an architect. Of his city scenes Marin wrote, "Shall we consider the life of a great city as confined simply to the people and the animals on its streets and in its buildings? Are the buildings in themselves dead? . . . . the whole city is alive; buildings, people, all are alive."