Battle of Lights, Coney Island, Mardi Gras
Artist: Joseph Stella, American, born Italy, 1877?1946
Gift of Collection Société Anonyme
This painting is both the first of Stella's major works that explore the modern urban and industrial American landscape and the first painting he executed in a Futurist style. The Italian-born Stella painted Battle of Lights upon returning to New York after spending a few years in Paris, where he had seen modern works by the Fauves, Cubists, and Futurists. He contributed a few pictures to the now-famous 1913 Armory Show and wrote, "Soon after the show I got very busy in painting my very first American subject." In the painting, swirls of color and form incorporate the hallmarks of the amusement park-the Ferris wheel, the roller coaster, the electric lights, and the masses of spectators and performers-into the composition. Stella described his whirling vision of Coney Island as the: most intense dynamic arabesque that I could imagine in order to convey in a hectic mood the surging crowd and the revolving machines generating...violent, dangerous pleasures. I used the intact purity of the vermilion to accentuate the carnal frenzy of the new bacchanal and all the acidity of the lemon yellow for the dazzling lights storming all around.
This object is on view at the gallery.
Ruth L. Bohan et al., The Société Anonyme: Modernism for America, ed. Jennifer Gross, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2006), 26, fig. 13.
Angela Miller et al., American Encounters: Art, History, and Cultural Identity (Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2008), 460, fig. 14.13.
Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery's complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.