2/20/13: The Man Event
Stag at Sharkey’s, George Wesley Bellows
Marking a departure from 17th century culture, here comes a work that hits a bit more close to 20th century forms of entertainment. Painted by Bellows, the first student of the Ashcan School, the work depicts an illegal boxing match held presumably during the turn of the century (as the work was made in 1909). The dramatic prizefight is highlighted in the center of the piece, with the boxers painted in Athenian-like fashion, almost like gladiators in the ring. This reflects the changing time period in which men, who were mostly used to working outdoors or on their feet, were suddenly placed behind a desk all day. Here they come trying to reconnect to their roots by going and viewing something considered as the height of manliness. Notice that no women are present in the painting, which adds to the masculine energy of the piece as these onlookers try to reconnect with their likely newfound feelings of diminished masculinity. Due to the fact that most of the clientele would have been wealthy, the piece actually reflects a part of upper class society at the time as well. As a whole, Bellows has captured the spirit of oppression many must have felt at that time, as well as foreshadowing hard times to come.
Comments on the painting as well as boxing as a whole:
Boxing as an art: