Platemark: 37.7 x 53.1 cm (14 13/16 x 20 7/8 in.); Sheet: 44.4 x 57.9 cm (17 1/2 x 22 13/16 in.)
Gift of Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. 1935.250
Catalogue raisonné: Mason 168
Bellows created a dynamic triangle in this composition with the verticality of the central boy and lone building, the horizontal of the tugboat, and the two sails that complete the shape.
During George Bellows’s first decade in New York City, starting in 1904, newspapers ran many stories about the “social problem” of the urban poor, reporting that the city’s tenement district lacked cleanliness and order. Drawn to this unvarnished side of city life, Bellows made several images of the public docks along the East River that were unofficial places of recreation for the city’s tenement children. Both Splinter Beach and River-Front feature, without sentimentality, children that display their nakedness unabashedly. Disturbingly, both images feature fully clothed adults observing or even touching children, as well as other sexual touching. Portrayals of sexual indecency in Bellows’s work aligned with the off-color humor often found in fictional representations of the urban poor of the time.
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