March 15, 2020

TUDOR CITY ART: Martin Lewis

Martin Lewis. Building a Babylon, Tudor City, NYC.  1929.

This edition of Tudor City art features Building a Babylon, a drypoint etching by Martin Lewis.

Lewis (1881-1962) started out as a commercial illustrator, but aspired to be a fine artist. He began etching in 1915, hitting his stride between 1925‒1935 with a series of prints depicting gritty Manhattan locales at night. Lewis' studio was on E. 34th Street, and much of his subject matter was drawn from the surrounding neighborhood, including Tudor City.

Building a Babylon was among the etchings shown at his first solo exhibition in 1929, which made his name. Printed in an edition of 84, this work is currently for sale online at the Allinson Gallery for $12,500.

The view is northwest from the vantage point of 40th Street and First Avenue. The Woodstock is at top center, but what is that mysterious pitched roof hut just below it? 

A photograph of the same area made around the same time offers an answer, below.

Looking up First Avenue from 40th Street, showing the back walls of Nos. 25 and 45, as well as the mysterious hut, bottom left corner.

On closer inspection, a sign explains it all: THIS PROPERTY WILL BE DEVELOPED UNDER THE FRENCH PLAN AS PART OF TUDOR CITY. The property under demolition is the future site of No. 5 ‒ and the hut most likely a utility shed erected in the 41st Street cul-de-sac in preparation for it.


Thanks to Geoffrey Barbey for the tip. More Tudor City artwork here.

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