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.
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.