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Bullfight Scene

ca. 1945 (possibly)
Origin: Sub-America, Mexico, Nuevo Laredo
Primary Support: 11 x 8 1/2in. (27.9 x 21.6cm) and Framed: 11 3/16 x 8 11/16in.
Blue ballpoint pen ink on wove white paper, with artist's signature in graphite
Gift of Ellin and Baron Gordon
Acc. No. 2001.201.2
A sketch, with artist's notes, of a bullfighting scene. The scene's vantage point is from within the bullfight ring and above eye level. Ten bullfighters, some on foot and some on horseback, attack six bulls, and two more bulls are shown leaping the rear fence. The stands are dotted with clusters of onlookers.
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.

The artist made a living as a professional prizefighter from 1913 to 1920, when he must have witnessed considerable brutality. Nevertheless, the sight of Mexican bulls being tortured and killed for sport apparently moved him deeply, leading him to comment, here, on the "pittyful" sight of a badly-wounded animal struggling to defend itself.

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. 2001.201.1) 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 acquired this drawing from dealer Sterling Strauser, East 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". All other inscriptions are in blue ballpoint pen.
Near the rear of the scene is, "Bull Jumping/over fences/twice" (with lines leading from this wording to two images of bulls scrambling over the area fencing). One bullfighter is labeled, "CHAMPIAN/TER". Lines and arrows lead from words to an image of a bull at lower left; they read, "SPARE [i.e., spear] WOUND," "STRAIGHT DOWN/THIRD TIME," "THE CHAMP," "FIRST TIME/8" IN STICKING UP", "BACK TO CHEST/SECOND TIME," and "SPARE [i.e., spear]". Below the bull at lower right is, "the Bull was three time/wound with the sword--/when the teradore [sic] pull it/out the second time, then/place another onein [part scratched out, apparently intended as a correction from "on" to "in"] him,/he still got up to fight/what a pittyful sight it was."