American Art and National Identity

Skyline from Pier 10, Brooklyn

Fig 7. Reginald Marsh, 1898- 1954
Skyline from Pier 10, Brooklyn,
etching 6-3/8 x 11-15/16 inches
Brauer Museum of Art, Gift from Ester Sparks, 98.6

If the garden paradise had been the emblem of American ideals in the nineteenth century, the city captured many hopes in the twentieth as the promise of convenience, leisure, and opportunity. Reginald Marsh's Skyline from Pier 10, Brooklyn (fig. 7), applies the visual formula of the sublime mountainscape of earlier painting to the energetic, irrepressible skyline of Manhattan. The work of humankind was replacing the handiwork of God. The crenelated building in the foreground and the looming skyscrapers suggest the proud edifices of a modern Babel. This is a powerful example of American optimism and pride,
of boundless hope in what national industry and a robust economy can do. Anchored confidently in the foreground is a naval destroyer, symbol of American might. [4]

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4. The classic study of the history of the American landscape and industrial mechanization is Leo Marx, The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1964).


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