‘Chance Meeting’ is a dry point etching print by Martin Lewis and was created in the early 1930’s. The subjects are two figures, male and female, who have happened upon each other in the setting of a public sidewalk at the entrance of a storefront. It may be a dichotomy in terms to call the piece, “Idealized Urban Realism,” though Lewis’ work does harmonize well with the Urban Realist movement surfacing in this period with artists such as Edward Hopper. It also has a very idealized and stylistic quality, not unlike the work of artists like Roy Liechtenstein in a much later time period. At a glance, ‘Chance Meeting’ is a simple work intended to tell a story with minimal detail and it is difficult to distinguish any definite pattern in the composition. With careful inspection, however, the viewer can discover an order in the placement of objects, the existence of symmetry, and perhaps a much deeper meaning to the piece through the interpretation of symbolism.
The palate used in the piece is simply black and white, with the exception of the illusion of shades of gray created with the shading technique, cross-hatching. This intensifies the use of light and shadow in what definitely could be called chiaroscuro. The presence of a single, intensely bright directional light creates areas of extreme contrast that could be called tenebrism. An extreme variety of lighting techniques can be found, as some objects are lit from the side, and others are almost completely backlit, creating more of a silhouette than a distinguishable three-dimensional shape. Shadows in the recesses of the male figure’s face starkly oppose highlights upon his brow and jaw line. Lewis seems to be experimenting with what might be realistic lighting conditions at night on a typical city street and exaggerating the results in the interest of style. An area of focus is created in the foreground by the intensity of light falling off abruptly as distance increases. Balance …