This work by Henry Koerner depicts dozens of clowns, freaks, acrobats, and other performers, recalling the nearby influence of Coney Island.

Henry Koerner

American, 1915–1991

The Showboat, 1948

Tempera on masonite

48½ x 26 inches

Henry Koerner’s works from the 1940s represent some of the greatest examples of magic realism. Koerner’s paintings from the late 1940s demonstrate the defining characteristics of the style, such as the sharply focused delineation of forms, a painstakingly minute rendering of detail, flattened perspective, an absence of shadows, and a strong, precise, severe manner of execution.

Born in Vienna, Koerner admired contemporary Viennese painters and studied the Old Masters, especially Brueghel and Bosch. The influence of both can be clearly seen in the present work, a masterpiece of magic realism.  Painted by Henry Koerner in 1948 in Brooklyn, it depicts dozens of clowns, freaks, acrobats, and other performers, recalling the nearby influence of Coney Island. The work, purchased when it was first exhibited at Midtown Galleries in 1948, remained in a private collection until now. Dr. Joseph Koerner, son of the artist and an art historian and professor at Harvard University, describes the work as one of his father’s most compelling and important paintings.

This work by Henry Koerner depicts dozens of clowns, freaks, acrobats, and other performers, recalling the nearby influence of Coney Island.