Born in Australia, Lewis's affinity for art started early. He was from a working class family and his incessant drawing was viewed as lazy and unproductive, so he decided to leave and strike out on his own. He traveled to San Francisco in 1900 and ended up in New York where he would live on and off for the rest of his life. After working as a commercial artist for many years, Lewis finally had his big break with a 1927 solo exhibition at the Kennedy Galleries and his success continued until his death in 1962.
If you have seen a Martin Lewis etching, you are not soon going to forget it. Unbeknownst to many, his etchings of everyday New York street scenery in the 1930s and 40s illustrate what most imagine the city to be during those times. Lewis' strong contrasting colors and dramatic lighting of his subject matter are burned into our memories and color our historical viewpoint of New York during a pivotal moment in history.