Preliminaries (or, Preliminaries to the Big Bout)


George Bellows ((1882-1925), Preliminaries (or, Preliminaries to the Big Bout), 1916, lithograph, signed, titled (in full: “Preliminaries to the Big Bout), and numbered (No. 26) in pencil, bottom margin. Reference: Mason 24, edition 67. In very good condition, with margins (some very slight thinning toward margin edges verso), the matrix pristine. 15 3/4 x 19 1/2, the sheet 19 3/4 x 23 1/4 inches. On a very thin Japan paper, archival mounting.

Provenance: The Greentree Foundation (Whitney Estate)

A superb, glowing impression.

Preliminaries has always been considered one of the Bellows Boxing Series prints, but it is of course quite different from the others: the fighting action is in the background, but the real action is the fashionable tuxedo and gown clad group in the foreground making their way into their box. The composition is sophisticated; and the atmosphere is palpable.

Bellows noted of this print: “Society attends a big fight at Madison Square Garden, New York.” Preliminaries is the only one of the Bellows fight lithographs in which women are present. At the center of the composition a woman (Emma Bellows?) turns toward us. Emma commented in her catalogue of the Bellows lithographs: “For the first time in New York prize-fight history, many fashionable women appeared in the audience.”

There is no major painting associated with Preliminaries, but there is a large related drawing in crayon and India ink at the Wiggin Collection in the Boston Public Library).