Monday, February 26, 2018

George Bellows (by Allie Charlton)

      Born in August 1882, George Bellows was an extremely talented realist painter who did not shy away from the less picturesque scenes of urban life in New York City. At a time when fine paintings often depicted wealthy families or luscious scenery, Bellows focus on “Cliff Dwellers” (the name of one of Bellows most famous paintings) and the chaotic working-class lifestyles made him revolutionary.  George Bellows was an American born artist raised in Columbus, Ohio. He stayed in Ohio until 1904 when he decided to move to New York City to study art. 
George Bellows, Cliff Dwellers, 1913. Oil on canvas, 40 3/16 × 42 1/16 in. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Fund, 16.4. Digital image © 2015 Museum Associates/LACMA. Licensed by Art Resource, New York

George Bellows, Men of the Docks, 1912. Oil on canvas, 45 × 63½ in. National Gallery, London, bought with a grant from the American Friends of the National Gallery, made possible by Sir Paul Getty’s fund, and by private appeal, 2014, NG6649. Image © National Gallery, London/Art Resource, New York

Towards the beginning of Bellows Career, his work resembled the pictures above, dark shapes juxtaposed with bright shapes to highlight the motions of his objects. Not just a painter, Bellows also contributed many drawings to a socialist journal in 1917 called The Masses

By the end of George Bellows' career, he began to center his work around boxers, focusing on their movement. One of his most famous oil paintings was called Club Night as shown below. (1907)

I chose to focus on Bellows because I admire his vision to paint a different scene than expected during his time. He saw value and beauty in the grungy middle-class streets of New York. By doing so, he was able to make commentary on the elite upper class who so often failed to see those with less money as equals. I am also very drawn to his use of light and dark in order to suggest movement in his pieces.


Corbett, David Peters. “Decreation and Undoing: George Bellows's Excavation Paintings, 1907–1909.”Art History, vol. 40, no. 4, 2017, pp. 838–855., doi:10.1111/1467-8365.12342.

Fagg, John. “Anecdote and the Painting of George Bellows.” Journal of American Studies, vol. 38, no. 3, 2004, pp. 473–488., doi:10.1017/S0021875804008758.

Wolner, Edward W. “George Bellows, Georg Simmel, and Modernizing New York.” American Art, vol. 29, no. 1, 2015, pp. 106–121., doi:10.1086/681650. 

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