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Australian art

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Boss of the block

circa 1939


Martin Lewis


04 Jun 1881 - 22 Feb 1962


Martin Lewis was born in Castlemaine in 1881, and left Australia for San Francisco in 1900, never to return. Most of his career was spent in the United States of America, principally New York. He contributed two drawings to the 'Bulletin' while working and studying in Sydney between 1896 and 1900. The Gallery has two early pencil drawings by Lewis, 'A squatter's home' and 'Berry's Bay, Sydney', made while he was still in Sydney.

Lewis began making prints in 1915, although he did not exhibit until 1926. 'Boss of the block' was produced in an initial edition of 200, as part of a project to benefit the Art Students League of New York Print Fund, in 1949. Ten instructors at the Art Students League (Lewis taught there from 1944 to 1951), made editions of 200 prints to be sold at five dollars each; other artists who participated included John Sloan and George Grosz. 212 impressions are recorded of this print. Its date is conjectural, based on its similarity to another print 'The Equilibrists' of 1939 (Paul McCarron, 'The prints of Martin Lewis, a catalogue raisonné', New York: M. Hausberg, 1995, (127)), although there are also stylistic similarities with a later print 'The wayfarer' of 1947 (Paul McCarron, 'The prints of Martin Lewis, a catalogue raisonné', New York: M. Hausberg, 1995, (135)). The cancelled plate is in a private collection in Indianapolis, USA. The Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan USA, has a complete collection of the artist's prints, including plates, preparatory drawings, working proofs and archival material.

Hendrik Kolenberg and Anne Ryan, 'Australian prints from the Gallery's collection', AGNSW, 1998



circa 1939

Media category


Materials used

etching, aquatint, printed in black ink on ivory wove paper


from an edition of 212


28.4 x 18.7 cm platemark; 39.9 x 27.9 cm sheet

Signature & date

Signed l.r., pencil "Martin Lewis". Signed with initials in plate to print l.r. corner, "ML". Not dated.


Purchased 1989


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Martin Lewis

Works in the collection


Shown in 3 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 3 publications


Hendrik Kolenberg, Everyday life: prints drawings and watercolours from the collections of Australian and European art, Sydney, 1994, (illus.). 51

Hendrik Kolenberg and Anne Ryan, Australian prints from the Gallery's collection, Sydney, 1998, 52 (illus.). 40

Kirsten McKay, Martin Lewis: stepping into the light, Castlemaine, 2002, 34 (illus.), 67.