Gilbert Lewis, Sick Boy

Graphite and gouache on paper
Credit Line
Gift of Eric Rymshaw and James Fulton, 2017
32 x 70 in.

This young man, emaciated from illness, suffered from a form of congenital palsy. He was a resident at the Manchester House Nursing Center where Lewis worked as an art therapist. The pose is complex: his disfigured feet point as his legs stretch to the left, his torso and shoulders collapse back against the upright hospital bed, and his head twists to the right. The work comprises many sheets of paper that are taped together; the fragile construction is a metaphor for the fragmented life of the subject.

Anthony Rullo, one of Lewis’s longtime models, explained:

He talked about [this] picture a lot. It was hanging on the wall in his studio on South Street and it’s in the background of some of his paintings of me. He told me the young man was severely disabled and the only place that could properly care for him at the time was the Manchester House. Gilbert liked spending time with him because he was so young and didn’t really fit in with the older residents.


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