Peggy Bacon (1895-1987)
The Ardent Bowlers
Sheet: 11 3/8 × 18 5/8 in. (28.9 × 47.3 cm) Plate: 6 × 13 15/16 in. (15.2 × 35.4 cm)
Edition of 125
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase
Rights and Reproductions Information
© artist or artist’s estate
In the 1920s and 1930s, Peggy Bacon earned a reputation as a clever caricaturist and perceptive chronicler of the flourishing New York artistic community. Her drypoint print The Ardent Bowlers depicts a weekly gathering at a bowling alley on Third Avenue, replete with a self-portrait and peopled by artist friends including Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Reginald Marsh, and her husband Alexander Brook. The result of numerous sketches, The Ardent Bowlers does not document a particular evening, but records the artist’s general impressions in the spirit of her well-known satires of the 1920s, in which, as she put it, she wanted to convey “a spicy and clairvoyant comment upon the subject’s peculiarities.” In The Ardent Bowlers, physical features are exaggerated for comic effect, and the title itself is subtly humorous. Few of the “ardent” bowlers are actually paying attention to the game. Instead, they chat among themselves, suggesting that their passion is conversation, not bowling. Bacon’s satirical portraits were never mean-spirited, but she eventually became uncomfortable with caricature and abandoned it by the mid-1930s.