Fight night in New York: “Stag at Sharkey’s”

Until 1920, boxing was mostly outlawed in New York state. A loophole allowed fights to take place in athletic clubs, so many bars became on-the-fly athletic clubs in order to host matches. One of these bars-turned-clubs was Sharkey’s, a saloon on Columbus Avenue near West 67th Street. 

Owned by heavyweight fighter Sailor Tom Sharkey, it’s the setting for this dark, raw 1909 painting by George Bellows. Bellows was part of the Ashcan School—a group of artists bent on depicting realistic, gritty scenes of daily life.

Stagatsharkeys

Bellows had a studio close to Sharkey’s; it was in the Lincoln Arcade building, then on Broadway and 65th Street. “Stag at Sharkey’s” remains one of his most popular works.

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4 Responses to “Fight night in New York: “Stag at Sharkey’s””

  1. Ruth Edebohls Says:

    George Bellows is buried at Green-Wood in his wife Emma’s family plot. There is only a small stone with his intials, G.W.B., to mark his final resting place. His life was cut short at the age of 42 by appendicitis.

  2. Greg Lewis Says:

    It’s a remarkable painting. Is it on public display anywhere? Does anyone know?
    You might be interested to know that our major biography of Tom Sharkey, “I Fought Them All”, will be out soon. We are just waiting for a publication date.
    Corbett and Fitz feature, of course, and so does old Wyatt Earp, as we analyse the famous fight between Sharkey and Fitz.
    We’ll get back to you when we have a date.
    Greg Lewis & Moira Sharkey

  3. joe giordano Says:

    I discovered Bellows’ Stag Fight at Sharkey’s in the ”’World Book Encyclopedia” when I was a kid a few decades ago. It was the first painting that caught my eye. I made several pencil drawings copies of it. The painting had a profound influence on my life. I am an exhibiting working painter, in major collections and exhibitions nationally as well as abroad. I am also the chief score keeper for professional boxing sanctioned by the Maryland State Athletic Commission. The atmosphere of Bellow’s environment, the characters and strong lighting grabbed my attention even on the little print published in the encyclopedia. Later when I saw his work in life, I was influenced by his painterly approach. His attack made me want to paint with the same self assurance and risk taking.
    joe giordano 9-8-2012

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