By Culturekiosque Staff
ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA, 15 MAY 2012 Members of the Collectors
Circle, a support group at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg,
voted for Fletcher Martins The Undefeated (about 1948) to
be added to the museum's permanent collection.
for an undisclosed purchase price and currently on view at the MFA, the American painting conveys the drama
surrounding the great Joe Louiss last championship match in 1948. Instead
of depicting the winner, Martin focused on his opponent, Jersey Joe
Walcott, trying to rise after a knockout in the 11th round. He is
supported by referee Frank Fullam.
(American, 1904-1979): The Undefeated (about 1948)
Museum Purchase with funds provided by the Collectors
The rivalry between Louis and Walcott was legendary. Both had risen to
stardom in the face of terrible discrimination against African American
athletes. Louis won a heavily contested 15-round decision against Walcott
in 1947, leading to this much publicized rematch.
Walcott may look
physically battered in The Undefeated, but the paintings
verticality supports his determination, his effort to move upward. The
bold ropes slice through the space, indicating the tension and force of
the fight. Martin also emphasizes Walcotts right arm. The boxer was known
for his right punch. In the painting, he is battling himself, his physical
limitations, more than champion Joe Louis.
Jersey Joe finally won
the heavyweight crown in 1951 at age 37. He went on to pursue a
number of careers boxing referee, professional wrestler, and public
servant. He even appeared in the move The Harder They Fall (1956)
with Humphrey Bogart, and in 1971, became the first African American to be
elected sheriff in Camden County, New Jersey. This accomplished man, who
had to leave school after his fathers death to support his mother and 11
siblings, spent his life breaking barriers. He passed away in 1994 at the
age of 80. He truly was "the undefeated." Martins painting is prescient.
According to Chief Curator Jennifer Hardin, this large-scale work
"relates not only to works of the period, like the dramatic posters and
paintings of Ben Shahn and murals by John Steuart Curry, but also to
canonical subjects in art history, such as martyrdoms and depositions.
Martin is represented in a number of major collections, including the
Museum of Modern Art."
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