When New Yorkers still walked the streets, Martin Lewis (1881–1962), an Australian-born printmaker specialized in scenes of early 20th century New York City. He began making painted stage decorations for William McKinley’s 1900 presidential campaign. By 1909, he was living in New York City, where he produced commercial illustration. His earliest etchings is 1915 but he had been working in the medium before this. It was during this period that he helped teach the American artist Edward Hopper the basics of the craft. In 1920 Lewis moved to Japan, where for two years he drew and painted and studied Japanese art. The influence of Japanese prints is evident in Lewis’ prints after that period. In 1925, he returned to etching and produced most of his well-known works between 1925 and 1935. Lewis’ first solo exhibition in 1929 was successful enough for him to give up commercial work and concentrate entirely on printmaking.
Lewis is most famous for his black and white prints—the pre- and Depression-era noir of the city, mostly hauntingly dramatic night scenes of non-tourist, everyday real-life streets, roofs and stoops.