Eltinge Follies, 1940

Reginald Marsh
American, b. France 1898-1954

Eltinge Follies, 1940
engraving on wove paper
12 x 9 7/8 inches
Collection purchase
Syracuse University Art Collection, 1964.088

© The Art Students League of New York/ Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York.

This engraving describes an opulent burlesque show at the Eltinge Theater in New York City. The focus of the performance, a single female dancer, occupies only a small portion of the picture. More than three-quarters of the composition is devoted to the audience. Thus, Marsh presents a different take on this popular Depression-era pastime, one that speaks to how burlesque functioned for men during this period. At a time of economic havoc, working and middle-class men began to devote more time to popular entertainments like burlesque where they could meet and enjoy the company of other men. Marsh himself frequently attended shows and felt the genre played a legitimate role in American society. He even testified on burlesque’s behalf when two theaters’ licenses were on the verge of revocation. In his testimony he deemed burlesque to simply be “a part of American life.”

Rylee Maron

 

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The Best Show is the People Themselves: Reginald Marsh’s New York