Bernard Perlin

Orthodox Boys

1948

Medium
Tempera on board
Dimensions
Support: 762 x 1016 mm
frame: 807 x 1060 x 40 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Lincoln Kirstein through the Institute of Contemporary Arts 1950
Reference
N05956

Display caption

The handing down of intellectual or religious knowledge is a traditional form of male bonding. This painting depicts two Jewish boys on the platform at Canal Street subway stop, New York City. The green wall, the back of a newspaper kiosk, is used to compress the space in the picture and focus attention on the psychological quality of the work. Graffiti on the wall record the former presence of other city dwellers, from lovers to Nazi sympathisers. The inscribers have left their marks, which help to verify their own sense of identity. Behind the kiosk the boys are solemnly and furtively sharing a Hebrew text, also inscribed, which is a sign of their difference, a sign of their Jewishness.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

Bernard Perlin born 1918

N05956 Orthodox Boys 1948

Inscribed 'Bernard Perlin 1948' b.l.
Tempera on millboard, 30 x 40 (76 x 102)
Presented by Lincoln Kirstein through the ICA 1950
Prov: With M. Knoedler, New York (purchased from the artist 1948); Lincoln Kirstein, New York, 1948
Exh: Bernard Perlin, Knoedler, New York, May-June 1948 (6); Painting in the United States 1949, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, October-December 1949 (35, repr.); Artists under 35 Years of Age, Metropolitan Museum, New York, March-April 1950 (no catalogue); Symbolic Realism in American Painting, ICA, London, July-August 1950 (21, repr.); XXVIII Biennale, Venice, June-October 1956 (US pavilion 35, repr. in special catalogue American Artists paint the City, pl.14); American Artists paint the City, Art Institute of Chicago, January-March 1957 (works not numbered, repr. pl.14)
Repr: Art News, XLVII, June-August 1948, p.51; Architectural Review, CVIII, 1950, p.206

Orthodox Jewish boys on the platform at Canal Street subway stop, New York City. The green wall is the back of a newspaper kiosk (letter from the artist, 26 August 1952).

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.584, reproduced p.584

Article

Orthodox Boys 1948 by Bernard Perlin

Tate’s first ever acquisition of a work by a contemporary American artist, Orthodox Boys is Perlin’s mid-century manifesto ...