About This Artwork

Gifford Beal
American, 1879–1956

Spotlight, 1915

Oil on canvas
88.6 x 118.8 cm (34 7/8 x 46 3/4 in.)
Signed and dated lower center: Gifford Beal 15

Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson Collection, 1933.1182

Gifford Beal chose to depict life’s exuberant side, focusing on festive places such as the circus, which attracted people who sought lively entertainment to fill their leisure time. Here Beal provided a behind-the-scenes glimpse of performers rehearsing and a stage crew preparing the set for the evening show. Together the vivid colors of the uniforms, the dramatic empty space above (which will soon be filled with excited spectators and daring acrobats), and the exaggerated stances of the horses and the trombone player convey the circus’s popular pageantry.

— Permanent collection label

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Washington D.C., Corcoran Gallery of Art, "Sixth Exhibition of Oil Paintings by Contemporary American Artists," December 17, 1916-January 21, 1917, cat. 262.

Art Institute of Chicago, "A Century of Progress, Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture," June 1-November 1, 1933, no. 503.

Publication History

Judith A. Barter et al, The Age of American Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Art Institute of Chicago (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2011), no. 84.

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