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George Bellows and New York, 1900–1930

George Bellows
American, 1882-1925

A Stag at Sharkey’s

1917
Lithograph
Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Lay American Art Fund, 1986.104

Based on his oil painting of 1909 (see below), Bellows’ lithograph captures the raw, gritty intensity of the semi-legal prize fights (“stags”) sponsored by New York sports clubs. Public boxing was illegal in New York in 1909, though private fights were permitted. To get around the law, Sharkey’s bar charged membership fees. The Frawley Act permitting boxing in New York went into effect in 1911, but was repealed in 1917 after a boxer’s death in the ring. The prohibition of the violent sport ensured a renewed interest in the illicit fights of the preceding decade and Bellows capitalized on the underground appeal of this subject.