Dunbar Dyson Beck 1902-1986
- Dunbar Dyson Beck
- The Night of the Big Fight
- oil on canvas
- 30 by 40 in.
- 76 by 101.5 cm.
Estate of the artist
Henry Kroeger, Sacramento (acquired directly from the above)
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1986
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This work was painted sometime after 1947, as the play "National Ring", on which it is based, was written that year.
A multi-talented artist, Beck was a muralist, teacher, interior designer, as well as a painter. Born in Ohio, he received his BFA from Yale University in 1926 and was invited to teach there during the following academic year. In 1927, he won the prestigious Prix de Rome for his painting, "Adoration" and spent the following three years studying at the American Academy in Rome and traveling extensively in Europe and Africa.
On his return to New York in 1930, he accepted teaching positions, first at Columbia and then at Cooper Union. He also began receiving several important commissions for murals, altar paintings and portraits. Among them were a mural for the lobby of Radio City Music Hall in 1934 and a frieze for the case of a grand piano from C.F. Theodore Steinway. Not just any piano, this one was meant as a gift from Steinway & Sons to President Franklin Roosevelt for the White House and it was decorated in gold leaf, its subject, five forms of music indigenous to America. It is still in the White House.
In the late 1930s, Eleanor McClatchy, his patron in Sacramento, persuaded Beck to live and work permanently in California and from then on, he spent most of his time on the west coast.
The present two paintings (lots 135 and 137) are part of an impressive series Beck created after 1947 around the theme of a prize-fight. They were inspired by an unpublished play entitled "The National Ring". This is Beck at his best. In each work, the dramatic placement of the composition and theatrical lighting effects emphasize the high-octane energy of the action taking place. Details are minimized to emphasize emotional intensity and anticipation. Reminiscent of the fight scenes of George Bellows, in the "Big Fight" one can almost feel the strength emanating from the graceful, dynamic bodies of the young boxers as they are locked in perfectly rhymed movement. In "The Night of the Big Fight", the drama is concentrated on an empty, lit stage with the two pugilists, highlighted in red, waiting at right and left for the match to begin. The crowded arena, the many bright lights hanging from the ceiling and the empty expanse of stage, highlight the sense of expectancy and excitement. The painted-in margins along the edges of both works with a sports commentator in "The Big Fight" at lower left and the additional audience in the foreground in "The Night of the Big Fight", along with the starry night sky above add a strange, surrealist sensibility.