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At the Hippodrome

A work made of oil on canvas.

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  • A work made of oil on canvas.




Gifford Beal
American, 1879–1956

About this artwork

Gifford Beal often depicted life’s exuberant side, focusing on festive places such as the circus, where many people spent their leisure time. Located near Times Square and built in 1905, the New York Hippodrome was an enormous entertainment venue. Here, Beal captured a moment during rehearsal, as a stage crew prepares for the evening show. Together the vivid colors, the figures’ exaggerated and strenuous poses, and the dramatic stage lights convey the event’s pageantry. The empty seats and trapeze bars suggest the excitement to come, when spectators and acrobats fill the theater.

Beal’s portrayal of a group of circus clowns in the foreground includes one figure who appears to be in blackface, visceral evidence of the racist stereotyping that permeates American culture. Performers in blackface were regular fixtures of theater, circus, and vaudeville productions throughout the 19th century and well into the 20th century. These routines relied on comedy, derision, and distortion to normalize negative perceptions of African Americans, assert white superiority among performers and viewers, and perpetuate inequality.


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Arts of the Americas


Gifford Beal


At the Hippodrome


United States (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Oil on canvas


Signed and dated lower center: Gifford Beal 15


88.6 × 118.8 cm (34 7/8 × 46 3/4 in.)

Credit Line

Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson Collection

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

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