Critical Issues in American Art: A Book of Readings

By Mary Ann Calo | Go to book overview

15
George Bellows's Stag at Sharkey's

Boxing, Violence, and Male Identity

ROBERT E. HAYWOOD

In this provocative essay, Robert Haywood considers the boxing paintings of George Bellows in the context of American attitudes toward sports and masculinity in the early twentieth century. As a young artist in New York, Bellows resided first at the YMCA and later in close proximity to Sharkey's Athletic Club, institutions that provided vastly different experiences of male athletic activity. Based on Bellows's own experience and popular beliefs of the time, Haywood draws an important distinction between the illegal prizefight represented in this painting and pugilism as a legitimate sport practiced within the respectable environment of the YMCA, where participation in sports was thought to build character and strengthen the body.

Stag at Sharkey's captures the illicit excitement of the prizefight from the standpoint of the spectator- voyeur who enters this decadent world in search of danger and excitement. Haywood understands boxing as a complex enactment of power and aggression, where the male body becomes a site encoded with signs of not only physical strength but also sexual potency. The evident fascination with the spectacle of violence captured by Bellows is connected both to conflicted notions of masculine identity at the turn of the century and to the homoerotic implications of boxing itself as a ritual of desire coupled with physical brutality.

When George Bellows left Columbus, Ohio, in 1904 and began his education at the New York School of Art, he chose the Young Men's Christian Association on Broadway and West Fifty- Seventh as his new home. The twenty-two-year- old had pursued both arts and athletics in his hometown, and at the YMCA he could participate in sports during his free time. Bellows's parents approved of this housing--the YMCA was known for its clean and wholesome environment; it was an institution that linked exercise to morality and manliness.

During this era, one YMCA official posited that the correct use of sports could play a large role in a boy's character development. If young men were properly supervised, he believed, they would avoid frequenting gambling halls and pool rooms, and they would be less inclined toward using profanity and drinking alcohol. 1 The YMCA stressed that a healthy body housed a healthy mind, that a well-developed physique was evidence of alertness and strength.

For those desiring a firmer form, the YMCA offered facilities and instruction in physical improvement. Bellows satirized this physical fitness concern among white-collar men in a 1916

-243-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Critical Issues in American Art: A Book of Readings
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 328

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.