Walt Kuhn (1877–1949)

Clown with Drum, 1942

Oil on canvas, 60 7/8 x 41 3/8 in. (154.6 x 105.1 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1992.172

An illustrator, printmaker, painter, sculptor, and adviser to American art collectors, Walt Kuhn played a major role in selecting contemporary European artworks for the groundbreaking 1913 exhibition in New York City known as the Armory Show. By the early 1920s, however, his interest in European modernist trends had waned, and he began creating his signature paintings of New York’s vaudeville and circus performers, such as this one. Donning the makeup and costume of a clown, Joe Pascucciello, a local boxer, modeled for the painting. Instead of capturing the entertainer in the act of performing, the work provides a glimpse behind the scenes. Seated with fists clenched and just barely fitting inside the picture, the clown projects a potential for action and demonstrates Kuhn’s ability to transmit his sitters’ emotional states with an immediacy and authenticity that critics praised.

Learn more about this painting on the Terra Foundation website.