This work by James Chapin tells the tale of a man whose very existence is about surviving the punches that both his profession and life have thrown him.

James Chapin

American, 1887–1975

A Prize Fighter and His Manager, 1930

Oil on canvas

21 x 19 inches

Signed upper left and dated upper right

Chapin was a seminal figure in American Scene painting. Born in New Jersey, Chapin developed an interest in art at a young age. He took classes at the Cooper Union and, through the largesse of a relative, spent two years at the Royal Academy in Antwerp before studying in Paris. His exposure to the work of Cézanne and the Post Impressionists informed his pictorial vocabulary. Back home, Chapin reevaluated his European-influenced aesthetic and began painting the world outside his front door—agricultural life and portraits of rural workers and their way of life. By the 1930s Chapin widened his purview to create portraits of urban life, including workers from diverse backgrounds, athletes, barflies, shop girls, movie stars, and gangsters.

Chapin became celebrated for his portraiture, with Grant Wood especially impressed by his insightful portrayal of farm workers. Chapin found a similar history of hardship etched in the faces of many American sports figures. A Prize Fighter and His Manager tells the tale of a man whose very existence is about surviving the punches that both his profession and life have thrown him. The fighter’s face is a visual timeline of the emotional and physical pain he has experienced. Chapin’s strategy to delineate a sharp contrast between the fighter and the manager—differentiated by palette, gaze, and posture—reinforces the vulnerability of the fighter and his precarious future.

This work by James Chapin tells the tale of a man whose very existence is about surviving the punches that both his profession and life have thrown him.