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Samuel L. Margolies

Born: 1897, New York, New York, United States of America
Died: 1974, Fort Pierce, Florida, United States of America

Man's Canyon

Etching and aquatint on cream laid paper
Plate: 11 7/8 x 8 13/16 in. (30.2 x 22.4 cm)
Sheet: 15 15/16 x 12 15/16 in. (40.5 x 32.9 cm)
Mat: 20 x 16 in. (50.8 x 40.6 cm)
Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1996.41
Signed: In graphite, below platemark lower right: S.L. Margolies
Inscribed: In graphite, below platemark lower left: Man's Canyon
Artist Name: []


Samuel L. Margolies's Man's Canyon is a dynamic composite view featuring New York City's Chrysler Building at left, the Empire State Building at the center, and Rockefeller Center, under construction at the right. Margolies envisioned the modern metropolis with these icons of American skyscraper architecture together in a single city block, compressing the actual distance between them. Erected in the 1930s during the Great Depression, the three buildings served as symbolic beacons of America's economic recovery, with the Empire State Building the tallest man-made structure in the world (until the early 1970s). On the streets below, cars look like ants next to specks representing pedestrians. Despite the devastating impact of the depression on New York City and the rest of America, Man's Canyon presents a triumphant city, albeit one partially darkened by a passing black cloud, at the upper left.

Made two years after Margolies first took up etching, this print demonstrates his skill in using aquatint to model the geometric forms of the skyscrapers in subtle tones. The bird's-eye vantage point, diagonal beams of sunlight, and raking light casting one side of each building in deep shadow dramatize this city's soaring height and underscores the aspirations it embodied. In the 1930s Margolies was one of numerous American artists who portrayed urban skyscrapers in heroic fashion. The exaggerated angles and dramatic perspective of Man's Canyon links this work to such images as New York in the Fifties (TF 1996.39) by William Charles McNulty and Howard Cook's Skyscraper (TF 1995.28).

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The artist
Margo Pollins Schab, Inc., New York, New York
Terra Foundation for the Arts Collection, Chicago, Illinois, 1996

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Exhibition History

Figures and Forms: Selections from the Terra Foundation for the Arts, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, May 9–July 9, 2000.

Paris-New York, aller-retour. Une Modernité américaine en formation, 1875–1940. Oeuvres des collections de la Terra Foundation for the Arts et des Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens (Paris-New York, Roundtrip. American Modernism in the Making, 1875–1940. Works from the Terra Foundation for the Arts and the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, September 15–November 30, 2002. [exh. cat.]

America’s Cool Modernism: O’Keeffe to Hopper, Terra Foundation for American Art and the Ashmolean Museum of Art & Archaeology, Oxford, UK (organizers.) Venue: Ashmolean Museum of Art & Archaeology, Oxford, UK, March 23, 2018–July 22, 2018 [exh. cat.]

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Published References

Beall, Karen F. et al. American Prints in the Library of Congress: A Catalog of the Collection. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins Press, 1970. No. 4, p. 289.

Master Prints of Five Centuries, The Alan and Marianne Schwartz Collection. (exh. cat., The Detroit Institute of Arts). Detroit, Michigan: Founders Society, The Detroit Institute of Arts, 1990. No. 69, p. 90.

Griffith, Bronwyn and Lee A. Vedder. Paris-New York, aller-retour (New York-Paris Round Trip). (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2002. Text pp. 44 (French), 95 (English), 107 (checklist); fig. 20, p. 43 (color). [specific reference to Terra print]

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