A “distinctly vulgar scene” at Coney Island

Painter George Bellows depicts a day at the seashore in “Beach at Coney Island”: shirtless boys, a passionate couple, and girls in white bathing attire, all in close quarters at the city’s tawdry summer amusement playground.


Suggestive, sure, but it’s hard to believe that the painting was considered vulgar by critics.

“His Beach at Coney Island (1908, private collection) signals the relaxed moral codes associated with this locale on Brooklyn’s south shore,” states this page from the website of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which included the painting in the big George Bellows show from 2012-2013.

“One leading critic described Bellows’s teeming view as ‘a distinctly vulgar scene,’ not least because of the amorous couple shown embracing in the foreground.”

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4 Responses to “A “distinctly vulgar scene” at Coney Island”

  1. Rich T Says:

    How did they clean the beach back in those days? I’ve seen a lot of pics of really crowded beaches and those people had bottles, papers, cigars, and all manner of picnic stuff.

    • he who must no be named Says:

      People back then probably picked up after themselves.

    • ledamato Says:

      I would assume most items were reusable, picnic basket, cloth napkins, glass bottles with corks, metal utensils, etc. Even in the 60’s, when we went to the beach, my mom used a thermos/jug, wrapped sandwiches in cloth napkins, brought those aluminum cups, fruit in a tupperware. We never had any trash.

  2. thekeystonegirlblogs Says:

    Oh my god! Where are the cops?

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