Fletcher Martin painted this smoky social realist boxing scene to symbolize the condition in which African Americans lived during the Depression. Martin spent his early career in California with Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros, whose influence is traceable here both in palette and in the artist’s empathy for oppressed African Americans. Martin produced Down for the Count after participating in the American Artists’ Congress in February 1936, during which many artists drew parallels between European fascism and racism in America. Martin’s works often feature men in conflict or experiencing trauma, even those that date to before his time as an artist-correspondent for LIFE magazine during World War II. Here Martin used linear perspective not only to create dramatic depth, but also to clearly demonstrate that these men are not on a level playing field.