David Jon Kassan comments on George Bellows' A Stag at Sharkey's.
|A Stag at Sharkey’s
by George Bellows, 1917, lithograph, 18½ x 23.
This lithograph drawing by George Bellows was based on an earlier painting of the same name done in 1909. The painting was considered to be controversial at the time because public boxing matches were illegal. This print was done after boxing was legalized in 1910 to capitalize on the sports new openness and popularity.
This drawing is more than a figure drawing. It is highly finished and focused on the action being portrayed. It is a great example of how to move the viewer’s eye around a work through the use of dynamic composition. The large shapes created by the contrasts of positive and negative, light and dark, draw us into the point of contact between the two boxers. The artist also developed the heads and gestures of the crowd to lead our eyes up into the point of the drawing’s greatest tension. Bellows creates a subtle depth and a hierarchy of importance in this work through shadows. Note how he handled the referee in the ring, as well as areas of the crowd that he wanted to sit back in space and not interfere with the action. Bellows also pays special attention to his subject’s gestures and anatomy, and he does a superb job of implying the fighters’ straining muscles and dynamic force.