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Bullfight Scene with notes and sketches on reverse

ca. 1945 (possibly)
Origin: Sub-America, Mexico, Nuevo Laredo
Primary Support: 8 1/2 x 11in. (21.6 x 27.9cm) and Framed: 8 11/16 x 11 3/16in.
Blue ballpoint pen ink on wove white paper, with artist's signature in graphite
Gift of Ellin and Baron Gordon
Acc. No. 2001.201.1
A sketch, with artist's notes on front and back, of a bullfighting scene. On the front, the scene's vantage point is from within the bullfight ring and above eye level. Nine bullfighters, some on foot and some on horseback, attack four bulls, and three more bulls are shown, unmolested, along the far fence. The stands are largely empty except for a group to left of center and a few others emerging from a covered opening at far right. A large round object at upper right is labeled "TANK". On the reverse are more of the artist's notes and some sketches of details.
The drawing was received in a modern (non-original) black-painted metal frame, glazed front and back, which was not retained. The drawing is unframed as of this cataloguing.

Label:Victor Joseph Gatto received a great deal of attention from the press in 1944 and 1956, his "discovery" seemingly confirming that American folk art had not been created solely in earlier times but was a viable, contemporary phenomenon as well.
Hundreds of Gatto's paintings and drawings survive. He avoided using printed sources, instead relying on his imagination and memories and depicting subjects as varied as exotic jungle and underwater scenes, circus spectacles, flowers, biblical allegories, current events, and outer space landscapes. He worked patiently and painstakingly but, personally, was tempermental and volatile.

Nuevo Laredo is almost directly across the Rio Grande from Laredo, Texas. AARFAM donor Ellin Gordon believes that the museum's two bullfight drawings (see also acc. no. 2001.201.2) may have been enclosed in a letter from Gatto to Sterling Strauser. However, if true, that letter's current whereabouts are unknown.

Provenance:The donors say they acquired this drawing from dealer Sterling Strauser, E. Stroudsburg, Pa., about 1991 or 1992. (Conversation with B. Luck at time of object's donation to AARFAM).
Inscription(s):In upright script in dark graphite at lower right on the front is, "Victor Joseph Gatto".

The following is only a partial transcription and should be reviewed and revised once the drawing is removed from its frame.

Aside from the artist's name in graphite, the inscriptions on the front and back are in blue ballpoint pen. On the front, those numerous inscriptions constituting the artist's color notes ("Red", "Yellow", "Gray", "Blue Sky", etc.) have not been transcribed here.

Beneath an image of a bull is "Bull leaping over fence" and, beneath a second such image, is "Bull leaping over fence twice". At lower left is "If the[ir?] swords were/left in him this [is] How he would look like this [arrow points toward bull in foreground]". The preceding is followed by "He Brake/ the Bull/neck with/a Pick". One matador is labeled "champion", another is labeled "champion/tired out".

At lower right, with arrows pointing toward the bull in the foreground, appear "Showing the sword/w[h]ere they went into/the Bull/8" stuck in first sword/through his chest - second sword/Back through stomack third sword."

On the reverse is a diagram of horizontal lines, one section marked, alternately, "red" and "yellow" and the other all marked "gray". To the lower right of this is a sketch showing people seated on a grandstand, with various sections of it marked "Red", "Gray", "Yellow", "Gray", "Red", "Gray", "Yellow".

To the left of the preceding is written: "The Back Ground of Grandstand all gray - stair Red Yellow Red Yellow/Strip around top of seats - all - Red & Yellow/Skip one Red then yellow Just the/Border edg:/Floor Ground light Brown Blood make it/Dark stain Dark Brown-/This Bull Ring Nova Laredo was w[h]ere the Body of/the Revolution Men were thrown after they/took up there Body. But were taken out again/Nova Laredo Mean New Laredo, it in Mexico/Laredo Belong to Mexico they gave it to the/United States. We have all Mexican Cops here/Buss drives also all Mexicans./The Bull fighters when they saw the Bull Jump/over the fence twice they wisper to each other/they were Both afraid./That Bull turns out to be/the toughest Bull of/them all."

A sketch of part of the ring is at center right, with various signs and color notes not transcribed here.

At lower right, beside a sketch, is "the man/that stick/him in the/Back of Neck" and "w[h]ere the/bull come out gate".