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Image of Relics 5603


Martin Lewis (1881 - 1962)



Creation Date



16 7/8 in. x 13 3/8 in. (42.9 cm. x 33.9 cm.)

Object Type


Creation Place

North America, United States

Medium and Support

drypoint on paper

Credit Line

Gift of Miss Susan Dwight Bliss


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Accession Number

With its dark shadows, bright light, unusual framing, and startling top-down view, this print elevates pedestrian movement from the mundane to the melodramatic. Japanese ukiyo-e, which Lewis could have seen in art periodicals or during his two-year visit to Japan from 1920 to 1922, may have influenced the composition of Relics. Ukiyo-e artists, such as Hiroshige, were highly innovative in their use of unconventional framing devices, and also very interested in city life. Lewis combined these design techniques with dramatic lighting and moody shadows to render a captivating vision of a New York City intersection, likely Charles Street and West Fourth Street in Greenwich Village. A speakeasy, alluded to in Lewis's original title Speakeasy Corner, originally occupied the ground floor of the building in the upper left corner of the print, and was later replaced by Camilla's Village Garden restaurant. Lewis was represented by Kennedy & Company Gallery who, perhaps in an attempt to temper the print's controversial subject matter, renamed it Relics. The one-hundred print edition sold out in a few months, signaling Lewis's achievements as a printmaker, while demonstrating that there was a market for inky nighttime scenes of New York City.

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