Martin Lewis (American, 1881–1962) is recognized as a devoted Realist who employed his consummate skills in painting and printmaking to depict the everyday life of rural Connecticut and New York. His detailed illustrations of the countryside and cityscapes are internationally renowned. The son of a mining engineer, Lewis was born in Castlemaine, Australia, where he developed a flair for drawing at an early age. He studied at the James Ashton Art School in Sydney from 1898 to 1900. While studying, Lewis did a number of illustrations for local newspapers. One of his contemporaries in Sydney's art society was the famous artist Julian Rossi Ashton (Australian, 1851–1942).
In 1900, Lewis relocated to San Francisco, where he produced political posters and banners for William McKinley's presidential campaign. He later settled in New York, NY, as a commercial illustrator. He became renowned for his Realist approach to depicting the energy and dynamism of New York City's urban life. Most of his paintings demonstrate an aesthetic combination of Impressionism and Tonalism.
Lewis was inspired to take up printmaking after a visit to England and Wales, where he encountered the graphic works of leading European artists. He took up printmaking in 1915 and spent three years in Japan, where he studied Oriental prints and the use of oils to portray different aspects of time and weather. His oils were well received in New York, but he chose to concentrate on printmaking with a major focus on urban lifestyles, streets, and architecture.
Lewis’s works were exhibited in a number of group shows such as the Print Club of Cleveland, the Chicago Society of Etchers, and the Kennedy Galleries in New York. By the late 1930s, the artist had become an icon of the American graphic art tradition. His famous works include Shadow Dance, which was sold in 2010 for US$50,400 at an auction in New York and The American Scene, which was exhibited at the British Museum in London. Lewis died in February 1962. His work continues to be displayed in major public collections such as the Art Institute of Chicago, IL, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.