Bellows, George (American, 1882-1925)

Dance in a Madhouse

Reference Type:
On Thursday nights, patients in the State Hospital in Columbus, Ohio were allowed to participate in a dance. George Bellows, who was a friend of the hospital’s superintendent, recalled: “For years the amusement hall was a gloomy old brown vault where on Thursday nights the patients indulged in ‘Rounds Dances’ interspersed with two-steps and waltzes by the visitors. Each of the characters in this print represents a definite individual. Happy Jack boasted of being able to crack hickory nuts with his gums. Joe Peachmyer was a constant borrower of a nickel or a chaw. The gentleman in the center had succeeded with a number of perpetual motion machines. The lady in the middle center assured the artist by looking at his palm that he was a direct descendant of Christ. This is the happier side of a vast world which a more considerate and wiser society could reduce to a not inconsiderable degree.” In works like this, Bellows was influenced by Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828), who also wanted to bring to society’s attention the plight of those with mental illness. Quote Source: Sharyn R. Udall, Dance and American Art: A Long Embrace (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2012), 198. Notes by Mariann Smith
History of Medicine
Mental Disorders
Mental Illness
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York