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James McBey

1883 - 1959

East River, Sunset by James McBey

East River, Sunset   1934

  Original etching.
Signed and numbered in ink.
Ref: Hardie/Carter 270
S 271 x 465 mm; P & I 206 x 352 mm
Excellent impression with pronounced etched line, from the only edition of 80 signed and numbered proofs.

East River, Sunset is James McBey’s first panoramic view of New York city; it shows sunset over the East River, seen from the Williamsburg Bridge, with Brooklyn on the left and New York on the right, joined by the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges.

James McBey had made his first visit to America in late 1929, arriving by sea onboard the White Star ocean liner RMS Majestic and the views which unfolded upon the approach into New York harbour had a considerable impact upon the artist. It had been James McBey’s practise from early in his career to make brief studies which he used, often some years later, to create his completed etched compositions; thus, many of his plates are the cumulative result of memory and of many sketched notes rather than precise factual representations. This etching of East River, Sunset was prepared in just this way, being developed from studies made on the spot in March 1930 and is effectively a composite record of McBey’s first impressions of the radically modern city of New York.

James McBey returned to America later in 1930 and whilst dining with the Sesslers, who ran the gallery and bookshop that sold his work in Philadelphia, he met his future bride, the bookbinder and heiress Marguerite Loeb. They were married in New York in 1931 and although they spent most of the 1930’s in London and Morocco, they were in New York at the outbreak of war in 1939 – Marguerite’s passport was impounded by the authorities, her family being classed as German émigrés, and the McBey’s became marooned in America for the duration of the war. James McBey decided to take commercial advantage of their situation by repeating the composition of East River, Sunset in an almost identical etching entitled Manhattan [Hardie.275] (an unpublished experimental version of this plate also exists, Manhattan No.2 [Hardie.276]). He added an etched view of the city seen across the North River, New York from Weehawken (Hardie 277), in 1941. Stranded in the U.S.A. for the duration of the war, James McBey was unable to follow the success of his First World War plates with a series concerning the Second World War and his final etchings were of America, Cuba and New Mexico.

On strong antique laid paper with full margins and deckle edge. Very good original condition.