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Business-Men's Class

Accession Number
1965/2.9

Title
Business-Men's Class

Artist(s)
George Wesley Bellows

Artist Nationality
American (North American)

Object Creation Date
1916

Medium & Support
lithograph on wove paper

Dimensions
15 3/4 in x 21 in (40 cm x 53.3 cm);22 in x 28 1/16 in (55.9 cm x 71.3 cm)

Credit Line
Museum Purchase

Subject matter
This print is a comic depiction of an exercise class at the Young Men's Christian Association. Bellows was a talented athlete before he gained formal training as an artist and he lived at a YMCA when he moved to New York in 1904. The association stressed the importance of a physically fit body to support a healthy mind. In Business-Men's Class, Bellows is poking fun at, "Brain workers taking their exercise," by depicting a motley crew of gentlmen in various sizes and shapes that have neglected their physical fitness in favor of their mental acumen. One man in the front appears to have dropped his hand weight while two others on either side of the class have given up out of exhaustion.

When this print is situated in the context of Bellows's other prints and paintings, its comedic depiction is evident. Bellows made many pieces of art showing boxing matches and highlighting the masculinity and brutal nature of the fighters but not without noting the graceful, effeminate nature of the activity. In contrast, Business-Men's Class is satirizing a different type of gym goer—the kind that is more focused on improving his career through physical fitness than strengthening his swing and agility.

Business-men's Class, Y.M.C.A. was Bellows's first illustration for Masses, a popular socialist magazine in the early twentieth century. It appeared in the April, 1913 issue. Masses served as an outlet for artists and writers in New York who wished to express unpopular political beliefs. Bellows would produce several illustrations to accompany articles written by politically engaged authors but he himself was not overtly political. 

Physical Description
In an interior space, a large group of men stand with their right arms out and their left elbows bent with their hands on their hips. They are all facing a man whose back is to the viewer. He is also holding his right arm out.

Primary Object Classification
Print

Primary Object Type
planographic print

Collection Area
Western

Rights
If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form. Keywords
YMCA
businessmen
caricatures
groups
gym suits
health clubs
instructors
modern and contemporary art
satire (artistic device)

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& Author Notes

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