Study for Joe Gans by Mahonri Young
Conté crayon on paper
20 ½ x 13 ½ in.
Young is known for his monument to the pioneers at This is the Place State Park, the Seagull Monument on Temple Square, and the monumental marble sculpture of his grandfather in the Statuary Hall of the US Capitol. But his work featuring everyday life, from laborers to athletes, is most highly regarded. His estate was donated to BYU in 1959 and Young has remained one of Utah’s most influential and important artists.
Mahonri Young’s biography is remarkable. He was born in Salt Lake City, trained in New York, worked in Paris alongside Picasso, Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds, and Gertrude & Leo Stein. In 1929, Mahonri Young was among the most sought-after and famous artists in the world. Young was invited to the Twentieth Century Fox studio to collaborate on the film Seven Faces (1929). Over six weeks in Los Angeles, Young worked by day at the film studio and by night sketching amateur and professional boxers at the famed Main Street Club. For decades, the Club had been a favorite hang-out for the likes of Jack Dempsey, John Silver, Charlie Chaplin, Rudolph Valentino, Henry Huntington, and Douglas Fairbanks; who met to socialize and spar. These scenes capture Young’s enormous arsenal at the height of his career.
Beyond artistic merit, Young was seen as someone who understood boxing on a practical level. In a period of six months, Vanity Fair reviewed his work twice, each time praising the artist for his ability to capture his subject: “Mahonri Young shows how unrivaled among American [artists] is his mastery over the problem of an athlete’s body and movement.”