Butterfly Boy, New York

Jerome Liebling (American, born 1924)

1949. Oil on canvas, 9 5/8 x 9 1/2".

Jerome Liebling, a distinguished photographer and teacher, made this picture in 1949, two years after he joined the Photo League. The stance of the little boy marks the center of the picture, his sharp gaze is directed precisely at the viewer, and his outstretched arms afford him a grand presence on his stretch of urban sidewalk. The details of his clothing—oversized shirt, mismatched and mislaced shoes, summer shorts with a winter coat—contradict but do not undermine his confidence. The open coat, a familiar gesture of childhood, signals both vulnerability and fantasy, as does the title. He is anonymous but unforgettable.

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