Both Members of This Club, 1909
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, Chester Dale Collection
oil on canvas
This visceral scene recalls an era when public boxing was illegal in New York City. However, fights could still be held in private clubs. To skirt the law, the boxers were simply made temporary members—hence the name of this work. Vivid brush strokes capture two bloodied and sinewy boxers, one white, one black, in the throes of a violent embrace with bloodlust smeared across the faces of frenzied spectators. Both the energetic, expressive paint handling and the brutal subject matter shocked contemporary audiences. Today the work is recognized as one of the most innovative and provocative modernist paintings of the early twentieth century.