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A painting of a man looking at a painting.

The painting show a head and shoulders profile view of bald man looking at a painting. The man is wearing a black jacket, a corner of a white wing tip collar is showing, he holds a pince nez in his right hand. He is looking at a painting that shows a group of people in the foreground, one figure is standing above and in the center of a group with a raised left arm and a clenched fist. Industrial buildings with smokestacks emitting black smoke are set against an orange sky.

Gallery Text

An admirer of Honoré Daumier’s social caricatures, Mervin Jules satirizes the myopic gaze of a bourgeois connoisseur scrutinizing a painting. The painting-within-a-painting depicts workers demonstrating against the backdrop of a smoke-filled industrial landscape. The subject memorializes the infamous 1937 Little Steel strike, during which police fired on unarmed unionized steelworkers and their sympathizers protesting low wages and poor working conditions. Jules executed this painting during a formative time when he was studying with Thomas Hart Benton at the Art Students League and employed by the Fine Arts Project of the New York Works Progress Administration.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Mervin Jules, American (Baltimore, MD 1912 - 1994 Provincetown, MA)
The Art Lover
Work Type
Persistent Link


Level 1, Room 1320, Modern and Contemporary Art, Social Realism
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Physical Descriptions

Tempera on composite board
24.4 x 32.1 cm (9 5/8 x 12 5/8 in.)
framed: 38.5 x 45.5 x 7 cm (15 3/16 x 17 15/16 x 2 3/4 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
[Hudson D. Walker Gallery, New York, New York], sold; to Mrs. Charles Hutzler. [C.G. Sloan & Company, Inc., New York, New York], sold; to Jack C. Sando, 1985, gift; to Harvard University Art Museums, 2005.

NOTE: Provenance provided by donor.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Donated by Jack Sando '62 and Judith Sando, in appreciation of Professor Seymour Slive
Accession Year
Object Number
Modern and Contemporary Art

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Small caricatural depiction of a bourgeois connoisseur inspecting a painting of a social-protest scene.
Jules was a talented but unheralded social realist painter who studied at the Art Students League with Thomas Hart Benton but who also experimented with cubism, surrealism, and other modern styles. This painting is a strong example of his work, demonstrating his admiration for Daumier and the keen edge of his social satire.

Exhibition History

  • 32Q: 1320 Social Realism, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 10/18/2018; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 10/17/2019 - 01/01/2050
  • 32Q: 1520 Art in Germany Between the Wars (Interwar and Bauhaus), Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 12/15/2018 - 08/05/2019

Verification Level

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