Baseball at Night
Born: Minsk, Russia 1896
Died: Nyack, New York 1974
oil on linen 37 x 47 1/4 in. (94.0 x 120.0 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mrs. Morris Kantor
Smithsonian American Art Museum
1st Floor, South Wing
Stadium lighting was still rare in 1934 when artist Morris Kantor saw this night baseball game in West Nyack, New York. The artist strove to convey in his painting "the panoramic spectacle of the field, the surrounding landscape, the people, the players, and the nocturnal atmosphere." Kantor showed the field proportionately smaller than it actually was to fit all this into his painting, along with a radio booth, flags waving against the night sky, and a runner taking his lead off first base. Major league baseball would not begin night games until 1935. However, in the early thirties Minor league, Negro League, and exhibition stadiums like this one used portable or permanent lighting for night games that would draw crowds of people who worked during the day.
The Sports Centre at the Clarkstown Country Club, in West Nyack was a versatile venue that hosted baseball games played by minor league teams, barnstorming professionals, local semipro groups of firemen and policemen, and Country Club members. Catering to the Depression-era thirst for varied, affordable entertainment, the Centre also staged boxing and wrestling matches. Eccentric proprietors Pierre A. Bernard and his wife, Blanche de Vries, even maintained a herd of performing elephants.
1934: A New Deal for Artists exhibition label
Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006
The New Deal ushered in a heady time for artists in America in the 1930s. Through President Franklin Roosevelt's programs, the federal government paid artists to paint and sculpt, urging them to look to the nation's land and people for their subjects. For the next decade — until World War II brought support to a halt — the country's artists captured the beauty of the countryside, the industry of America's working people, and the sense of community shared in towns large and small in spite of the Great Depression. Many of these paintings were created in 1934 for a pilot program designed to put artists to works; others were done under the auspices of the WPA that followed. The thousands of paintings, sculptures, and murals placed in schools, post offices, and other public buildings stand as a testimony to the resilience of Americans during one of the most difficult periods of our history.
Smithsonian American Art Museum: Commemorative Guide. Nashville, TN: Beckon Books, 2015.
Landscape - time - night
Occupation - sport - baseball
Occupation - sport - referee
paint - oil
fabric - linen
About Morris Kantor
Born: Minsk, Russia 1896 Died: Nyack, New York 1974