Artist Trivia: George Bellows

George Bellows (1882-1925) Romance of Autumn, 1916
George Bellows (1882-1925) Romance of Autumn, 1916 Oil on canvas 41 3/4 x 49 5/8 inches Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Shipman Payson, 1964.1366

Who is this artist: 

Born in the late 1800s and influential in the early 20th century, this artist died young and unexpectedly. Their depictions of boxing matches and gritty New York City neighborhoods brought them attention. They also created landscapes, portraits, prints, and illustrations that highlighted the social ills of their era. 

Born in an industrial Midwestern city, they attended college and excelled in sports. However, they left to study art with Rober Henri and became one of the leading members of the Ashcan School. This artist never traveled abroad, but visited a prominent New York museum to study the European masters. They also were a visitor to and painter of Monhegan Island, Maine. 

Although their work is rooted in realism; their palette and brushwork aligned them with modernism. A retrospective of their work was organized posthumously as a tribute by one of New York’s prestigious museums 

This artist is: 

George Bellows (1882–1925) was regarded as one of America’s greatest artists when he died from a ruptured appendix at the age of forty-two. Bellows’s early fame rested on his powerful depictions of boxing matches and gritty scenes of New York City’s tenement life, but he also painted cityscapes, seascapes, war scenes, and portraits, and made illustrations and lithographs that addressed many of the social, political, and cultural issues of the day. 

Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, Bellows attended Ohio State University, where his athletic talents presaged a future in professional sports and his illustrations for the student yearbook heralded a career as an artist. In 1904, he left college and moved to New York to study with Robert Henri, under whose influence he became the leading young member of the Ashcan School. The Ashcan artists aimed to chronicle the realities of daily life but often depicted them through rose-colored glasses. Bellows, the boldest and most versatile among them in his choice of subjects, palettes, and techniques—and also the youngest—treated both the immigrant poor and society’s wealthiest with equanimity.

Bellows never traveled abroad but learned from the European masters by seeking out their works in museums, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he was a regular visitor. In 1911, the Museum acquired one of his Hudson River scenes, Up the Hudson, making him one of the youngest artists in the collection at that time; he was twenty-nine years old. Over the years, ten more paintings, six drawings, and some fifty prints were added to the Met’s holdings.

Although Bellows’s art was rooted in realism, the variety of his subjects and his experiments with many color and compositional theories, and his loose brushwork, aligned him with modernism—as did his commitment to artists’ freedom of expression and their right to exhibit their works without interference from academic dictates or juries.

When Bellows died in January 1925 at age forty-two, his career was still a work in progress. Acknowledging his important role in American Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art organized the artist’s first museum retrospective in 1925 as a memorial exhibition.

George Bellows (1882-1925) Romance of Autumn, 1916 Oil on canvas 41 3/4 x 49 5/8 inches Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Shipman Payson, 1964.1366

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