THE LURE OF CUBA: Reginald Marsh’s Tropical Watercolors, 1924-1930

THE LURE OF CUBA: Reginald Marsh’s Tropical Watercolors, 1924-1930

August 23 – October 13, 2019

Opening Reception: September 5, 2019, 4:30 – 7 pm


American Scene painter Reginald Marsh (1898-1954) is well known for chronicling popular culture during the 1930s in his vibrant paintings of New York City and Coney Island. Marsh began his artistic career as a cartoonist for The New Yorker, where he covered movies, theater, leisure, and other cultural trends. During the 1920s, he made several trips to Havana, which he captured in illustrations for the magazine and in brightly colored watercolor paintings of the city’s architecture, tropical vegetation, and beaches. With the introduction of direct steamship service from Miami to Havana and the opening of the luxurious Hotel Nacional de Cuba, Havana was becoming a fashionable travel destination for celebrities, socialites, and upper class Americans escaping prohibition. In contrast to his frequently gritty representations of American urban life, Marsh depicted the Cuban landscape from the idyllic point of view of the artist-traveler. This exhibition brings together his rare Cuban watercolor series with postcards and printed material that document Cuba’s appeal as a tourist destination during this period.

The William Benton Museum of Art’s extensive holdings of work by Reginald Marsh include paintings, prints, sketches, and more than 90 watercolors. These works came to the museum from the collection of Connecticut Senator William Benton. Marsh and Benton met during their student days at Yale and became lifelong friends.

The Lure of Cuba was curated by Dr. Jillian Russo, independent curator and art historian. Robert Leo served as curatorial consultant on the project. Funding for the exhibition was provided by the Robert T. Leo Jr. Exhibition Fund.

Jillian Russo is an independent curator and art historian with a focus on modern and post-war American art. From 2013-2018 she was curator at the Art Students League of New York, where she organized exhibitions including The Masters: Art Students League Teachers and their Students, On the Front Lines: Military Veterans at the Art Students League of New York, and Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon (in collaboration with the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution). She is currently Director of Exhibitions at Hollis Taggart Gallery.

Online Exhibition for Reginald Marsh in Cuba


Watercolor by Reginald Marsh "Havana, Cuba" 1930
“Havana” 1930. Watercolor by Reginald Marsh
Sand dune and beach grass, 1930. Watercolor by Reginald Marsh
“Sand Dune and Beach Grass”, 1930. Watercolor by Reginald Marsh