In the early 1930s John Marin partly turned away from his urban compositions and developed an interest in depicting figures in indoor settings. He began to paint anonymous people in various parts of the city such as the subway, a restaurant and, as in this case, a waiting room that could be anywhere. Figures in a Waiting Room, a small oil painting dated 1931, shows several anonymous, static people in an undefined room, most likely a waiting room in some public building. Clearly isolated from each other by the dark frame around them, the figures in the composition tell of the lack of human communication in the modern city.
The composition, structured around an intensely illuminated central area occupied by a seated figure around which the rest of the people gravitate, displays the influence of Cézanne and Cubism, essential references throughout Marin’s entire career as a painter.