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Bonfire (Election Night)

Not on view

Bonfire (Election Night)

Artist: Glenn O. Coleman (American, 1887 - 1932)

Date: 1928
Medium: Lithograph on paper
Overall: 15 3/4 x 22 3/4in. (40 x 57.8cm)
Image: 13 1/4 x 18 3/4in. (33.7 x 47.6cm)
Signed: l.r.: 'Glenn O. Coleman'; l.l.:'Coleman'
Credit Line: Gift of Edward W. Root
Object number: 53.243
Label Text
Museum from Home: Election Night
November 3, 2020

Glenn O. Coleman (American, 1887-1932), Bonfire (Election Night), 1928, lithograph on paper, 13 ¼ x 18 ¾ in. (image), Gift of Edward W. Root, 53.243

Glenn Coleman moved to New York from Indianapolis in 1905 and became a student of artist Robert Henri. Henri urged young painters to travel around town making drawings and studying contemporary life; he believed the art of the new 20th century had to be of its own time. Coleman heeded this instruction, sketching his way from Coney Island, through the Bowery and the docks at Coenties Slip, to Greenwich Village.
In 1928, Coleman turned his drawings from 20 years earlier into a suite of twelve lithographic prints. Bonfire (Election Night) is from that collection. The imagery of an older city may have been a nostalgic trip for the artist. With the easy wealth of the Roaring ‘20s, skyscrapers sprang up in “smart” city blocks; by contrast, the neighborhoods Coleman depicted were among New York’s oldest, full of quirky streets lined with human-scaled buildings. There was always a teeming crowd on parade for Coleman’s inquisitive eye and pencil.
Harpo Marx was a child in that old New York. In Harpo Speaks . . . About New York, the comedian recollected the Tammany Hall-era political machine that elected its preferred candidate for Mayor every two years. Marx described it as a holiday that lasted for a day and a half, with beer and cigars passed around to men and firecrackers for kids. In the evening, boys dragged found wood and lit big bonfires; Harpo said, “Grandpa enjoyed the sight as much as I did . . . He pulled his chair closer to the window and lit the butt of his Tammany stogie.”

Orphaned work.