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Mitchell Siporin

Neapolitan Nights

Mitchell Siporin grew up in Chicago, where his father was a union organizer and his mother a painter. He first gained critical notice in 1932 for his twenty-four pen-and-ink drawings documenting the Chicago Haymarket riots of 1886. Completed when he was twenty-five years old, the Haymarket series demonstrated his social idealism and compassion for the poor and disenfranchised that would continue to be evident in his art throughout his career.

A sense of emotional remoteness seems apparent in Neapolitan Nights, in which all the figures stare vacantly forward. A masked harlequin playing a mandolin, a wounded soldier with an accordion, and a naked girl holding wilted flowers grasped from behind by a menacing, cloaked figure assemble before a damaged building decorated with a statue of a lion, perhaps a library or museum. The banner above the figures is torn and difficult to decipher but may be a recruitment sign that translates roughly as, “Italy is an army that leads to us, we want you!” The graffiti on the right edge of the painting reads, “morte fascism” (“die, Fascism”).

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