Archive for May 5th, 2009

Bellows Stag at SharkeysThis is Stag at Sharkeys, painted by George Bellows in the early part of the 1900’s.  Bellows was part of the Ashcan group of artists who depicted the reality of the time in their paintings, creating gritty scenes of city life and all that this entailed- street scenes, nightclubs, tenements, etc.Bellows Both Members of this Club

I’ve always been drawn to Bellows’ work particularly his several scenes of club fights.  There is such great movement and rawness in these pieces that you get the real sense of the fury of the violence taking place.  This is enhanced even more by the high contrast between the brightness of the fighters’ skin and the great blackness of the open space above the ring.  It all creates a great feeling of drama.

These paintings always bring to mind my grandfather, Shank.  This was his time and this was his world.  He had been a club wrestler which was the predecessor to professional wrestling except that it was real wrestling where one competitor might put a leg lock on the other and hold it for a long time until his opponent gave in.  The matches could last an hour or more.  Shank later went on to be a stage manager at on of the many vaudeville theaters that once  populated our city.  I remember as a kid, going to play bingo at the American Legion and this old cop, Sailor Devlin, who was at the time the oldest active police officer in the country as recognized by Ripley’s Believe It or Not, would amble over to our table to talk with my dad.  He would always comment on Shank, who was at this point dead, calling him the toughest guy he ever met. That really resonated with me and I always valued toughness after that, putting high regard for those who  could, as they say, take it.

Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to these images.  The guys in these paintings can take it.

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