Oil on canvas laid on masonite, 16" by 20" (19 1/4" by 23 1/4" in somewhat folky silver-painted frame), the subject apparently three performers in a circus ring, signed at lower center by listed painter JACOB PELL (1898-1991). Pell was born in the Ukraine, and was in New York by 1913. He studied there at the Art Students League with Leon Kroll, and with John Sloan. From 1929 to 1931 Pell was in Paris, and after his return from Europe, until 1955 he was in Connecticut. Only later in life did he move to Los Angeles. Pell was a painter and muralist, and also worked in the graphic arts. His wife donated the artist's papers and files to the Smithsonian in the early 1990's after his death. This painting has a circa 1930's or 1940's feeling to it though I believe it was possibly created as late as the 1950's. We are amused by the three performers, while left to wonder what is going on in that ring. The figures are most mysterious and the whole painting has a folk art, primitive and naive appeal. Close examination reveals an area to the upper right of the white figure at left, this area appearing almost to have been repainted by the artist himself after some paint flaked off, possibly; it appears to be original to the painting.
JACOB PELL (1898-1991) whimsical naive circus painting by listed WPA artist