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The Art of Boxing

"Stag at Sharkey's" by George Bellows

“Stag at Sharkey’s” by George Bellows

Boxing in Art by George Bellows

“Stag at Sharkey’s” by George Bellows

“Stag at Sharkey’s” by George Bellows depicts two boxers fighting at Sharkey’s Athletic Club situated across from his studio in 1909.

Participants in the boxing ring were usually members of the club, but occasionally outsiders would fight with temporary memberships. These fighters were known as “stags.”

The Club was founded by Tom “Sailor” Sharkey, an ex-fighter who had also served in the US Navy. Public boxing was illegal in New York at the time, so only private events could be arranged for a boxing bout to take place.

Participation was usually limited to members of a particular club, but whenever an outsider competed, he was given temporary membership.

Boxing had many detractors who considered it barbaric, its proponents, among them President Theodore Roosevelt, regarded it as a healthy manifestation of manliness.

Around the time Bellows painted this painting, boxing was moving from a predominantly working-class event to one with a broader social appeal.

For many, boxing was an analogy for the notion that only the strongest and fittest would flourish in modern society.

Bellows used quick strokes to create a blurred image, simulating the two fighters in motion. He also chose a low point of view to put the viewer among the crowd watching the fight. George Bellows said:

“I don’t know anything about boxing, I’m just painting two men trying to kill each other.”

This painting is part of the Ashcan School movement known in particular for depicting scenes of daily life in early twentieth-century New York City, often in the city’s more impoverished neighborhoods.

Stag at Sharkey’s

  • Title:                   Stag at Sharkey’s
  • Artist:                 George Bellows
  • Date:                  1909
  • Medium:            Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:      92 × 122.6 cm (36.2 × 48.2 ″)
  • Category:        American Artist
  • Museum:           Columbus Museum of Art

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“Club Night” by George Bellows

George Bellows - Club Night

“Club Night” by George Bellows

“Club Night” by George Bellows was the first of three similar boxing subjects that Bellows painted Between 1907 to 1909.

This painting represents a fight at an athletic club in New York City where attendees paid club membership fees instead of admission fees to a specific fight, allowing them to gamble on matches legally.

The public’s response to boxing varied; some regarded boxing as savage and brutal, but many thought it a natural manifestation of masculinity.

From a stylistic perspective, Bellows’s boxing paintings show the influence of the European masters.

Bellows drew inspiration from the rich black tonalities and satire of the Spanish master Francisco de Goya to depict the atmospheric haze that envelops the scene. Bellows’s technique for rendering the crowd owes much to the French painter, Honoré Daumier.

“Club Night” by George Bellows

  • Title:                    Club Night
  • Artist:                   George Bellows
  • Date:                    1907
  • Medium:             Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:       Height: 109.2 cm (42.9″); Width: 135 cm (53.1″)
  • Category:           American Artist
  • Museum:            National Gallery of Art, DC

George Bellows

George Bellows (1882 – 1925) was an American realist painter known for his bold depictions of urban life in New York City.

Bellows was part of the Ashcan School, which was an artistic movement in the United States during the early 20th century.

Best known for works portraying scenes of daily life in New York, often in the city’s poorer neighborhoods. The movement has been seen as symbolic of the spirit of political rebellion of the period.

George Bellows

Virtual Tour on the Art of Everything

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“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.”
– George Bellows

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Photo Credit: 1) George Bellows [Public domain]

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