Monday, June 06, 2016

`Reverential, Enthusiastic, Emotional Spectator'

My brother’s picture-framing shop, Walken Frame and Art, is in the same building as the Tregoning & Co., an art gallery in Cleveland owned by Bill Tregoning. Bill’s current exhibit features the work of a Cleveland artist new to me, Anthony Eterovich (1916-2011). On a wall in his gallery, Tregoning has painted a passage from Willa Cather’s The Song of the Lark (1915):

“What was any art but an effort to make a sheath, a mould in which to imprison for a moment the shining, elusive element which is life itself — life hurrying past us and running away, too strong to stop, too sweet to lose?”

On Sunday we visited the Cleveland Museum of Art, a place we haunted as kids. The highlight was a gallery devoted to Stag at Sharkey’s: George Bellows and the Art of Sports. The exhibit includes the well-known painting of boxers but also Bellows’ other paintings, drawings and lithographs of basketball, tennis, pool, polo and other sports. Stag at Sharkey’s was painted by Bellows in 1909 and has been a part of the museum’s permanent collection since 1922. Bellows is conventionally pigeonholed as a realist, but there’s nothing steely or scientific about his eye. He reveled in the human form, especially the face, which he sometimes treated satirically, like a caricaturist. Look closely at the faces of the spectators in Stag at Sharkey’s. In an interview Bellows gave in 1917, he said:

“As a student I was always eager to do the tremendous, vital things that are all about me. It seems to me that an artist must be a spectator of life; a reverential, enthusiastic, emotional spectator, and then the great dramas of human nature will surge through his mind.”

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