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 George Wesley Bellows  (1882 - 1925)

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About: George Wesley Bellows
 

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Lived/Active: New York/Ohio      Known for: genre, portrait, and street-landscape painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Columbus, Ohio, George Bellows was a major American artist of the early 20th century, known for his paintings of boxing match figures and for his lithographs, numbering nearly two hundred, of his paintings.  He became an instructor in New York at the Art Students League and at the Art Institute of Chicago.

He graduated from Ohio State University in 1903 and then attended the New York School of Art where he studied with Robert Henri, Kenneth Hayes Miller, and Hardesty Gilmore Maratta.  Henri inspired him to treat urban subjects in a realist, painterly manner, and between 1906 and 1913, he produced a number of scenes from New York life that defined his fine arts career.  In 1908, he won a prize at the annual show at the National Academy of Design, the first of many honors during his life. Bellows also worked as a newspaper and magazine illustrator and won early acclaim for those activities.

He was elected to the National Academy of Design, but he was part of the group that rebelled against them in 1919 with the Exhibition of Independent Artists and the 1913 Armory Show.

In 1920, he settled in Woodstock, New York where he purchased property next to his good friend Eugene Speicher and lived during the summers until his early death from a ruptured appendix in 1925.


Source:
Matthew Baigell, Dictionary of American Art
Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art


Biography from Art Cellar Exchange:

"Others paved the way and I came at the psychological moment."
-George Bellows
 
The decisions that George Wesley Bellows made were bold, stimulating, spontaneous and portrayed a potency that was characteristic of both the artist and his work. Whether looking at an action scene, seascape or portrait painting, there is immediacy, honesty and a vitality that grab the viewer.   It is for these reasons that Bellows is the most memorable precursor of one of the greatest American art movements: action painting. His work exemplified strength, vigor, and above all, survival of the fittest.
 
Born in Columbus, Ohio on August 12, 1882, George Bellows was an athletic young man, who turned down a career in professional baseball in order to pursue his passion of painting.  He attended Ohio State University for a short time before moving to New York, where he studied at the New York School of Art under Robert Henri.  Henri was the leader of "The Eight," also called the Ash Can School, whose members chose to paint a somber, urban subject matter in dark tones and vigorous brush strokes.
 
Early works such as Forty-Two Kids (1907), Stag at Sharkey's (1909) and Both Members of this Club (1909) are among his most famous works and clearly mark the Ash Can School’s heavy influence.  Bellows, one of the youngest members of this school of painting, presented this realistic subject matter so skillfully that he was elected an associate member of the National Academy of Design in 1909. In 1910 he began teaching at the Art Students Leagues in New York City and in 1913 received full membership into the National Academy of Design.
 
In 1913 he was one of the primary forces behind the organization of the infamous Armory Show that would forever change the development of American Art.  The show introduced the European modern art movement to American artists and critics who were simultaneously stimulated and traumatized by what they saw.  Bellows, however, found only inspiration in these new theories of art and their influence became obvious his work after this period.  Although he expanded the range of colors in his palette, he did not change the active spontaneous nature of his brushwork maintaining the vital energy that had become his trademark.
 
Early paintings, such as Stag at Sharkey's, demonstrated Bellows’ interest in capturing the emotional energy of his subject.  This was an interest that he never lost, always wanting to portray the vitality of the human figure as a striking physical and emotional presence in his work.  He did however reduce the detail in the form, utilizing the strong brushstrokes and areas of paint to put together the figure.  He began to take real control of the picture plane by incorporating new stylistic elements: a change of pose, an altered color, and an ambiguous setting that all revealed something of the human spirit in the person who sat for him. 
 
"I came at the psychological moment," he said, and indeed he did.  Perhaps the immediacy came from a subconscious force that knew his life would be short. George Bellows died at the age of 42 from acute appendicitis.  Although short, Bellow’s life was not without impact.  In his career, he developed new expressions of space, time and movement as in his Portrait of Doris Rosenthal, Stag at Sharkeys or in the many other works he composed.  One can only wonder how this innovative style would have developed, had it not been cut tragically short.
 
 Submitted by Amy Kleppinger


Biography from The Caldwell Gallery - I:
George Bellows was born in Ohio in 1882. He was a Realist painter whose bold, gestural style is noted in his dynamic interpretation of urban life. Bellows studied at Ohio State University and with William Merritt Chase at the New York School of Art, NYC. His most popular paintings were scenes of prizefights, athletic events and crowded streets. These paintings were meant to display the physical stress and quality of life of everyday people.

He would often complete two or three canvases in a day, attempting to capture the moment's glimpse of such scenes. Although Bellows was associated with members of "The Eight", he did not exhibit in their 1908 show and therefore gained more popularity with critics and patrons for not challenging academic authority. His work often showed more qualities of the Ashcan School. He also taught at the Art Students League.

In 1916 Bellows turned to lithography and during WWI he produced a series portraying the atrocities of war. Near the end of his career, Bellows began to experiment with geometric compositions based on the mathematical theories of Jay Hambridged.

Bellows died at the age of 42 from a ruptured appendix.



Biography from Hammer Galleries:
Born in Columbus, Ohio, George Bellows attended Ohio University before studying under Robert Henri in New York.  His choice of proletarian and sporting subjects and adoption of a loose, impressionistic style allies him firmly with the Ashcan School, the first generation of New York realists, so called because of their uncompromisingly urban themes, for which Henri was the spokesman.

Bellows was one of the organizers of the 1913 Armory Show which introduced modern European painting in America.

He achieved his first recognition with the bravura Stag at Sharkey's (1907), a vivid representation of an illegal prizefight.  A later boxing painting, Dempsey and Firpo (1924; New York, Whitney Museum), represents his interest in such sporting subjects and likely served as his inspiration in producing this lithograph of the same title.

He produced many lithographs after 1916 until his death in 1925.

Biography from Owen Gallery:
George Bellows was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio.  He attended Ohio State University where he was a cartoonist for various college publications.  In 1904, before completion of his degree, Bellows moved to New York City in order to study painting at the New York School of Art under Robert Henri.  In the city, Bellows quickly established himself as a painter of note, and enjoyed critical and financial success throughout his career.

In 1909, the artist married Emma Story, who was a fellow student at the New York School.  The couple had two daughters, Anne and Jean, who would later appear in many of the artist's works.

It was also in 1909 that Bellows painted his most famous canvas, Stag at Sharkey's, now in the Cleveland Museum of Art: Hinman B. Hurlbut Collection.

Bellows died unexpectedly of appendicitis at the age of forty-two at the height of his career.

Biography from Heritage Auctions:
American painter and lithographer, George Bellows studied with Robert Henri at the New York School of Art, directed by William Merrit Chase. He initially resided at the YMCA of 57th Street, and the urban landscape of New York and its inhabitants were the main subjects of his works.

He is probably best known for his gritty images of prizefighters in the ring, painted in a tonal palette with broad brushstrokes, evoking the tawdry underworld of prizefighting clubs at the turn of the century. Bellows was associated with the Ashcan School of painting and helped organize the Armory Show of 1913.

Biography from William A. Karges Fine Art - Beverly Hills:
One of the most significant of the early 20th century American artists, George Bellows cemented his place in American art with his series of works depicting urban life in New York City, circa 1910. George Bellows studied at the New York School of Art with some of America’s premiere instructors, most notably Robert Henri. He enjoyed much critical acclaim during his life, having been elected to the National Academy of design. At the height of his career, Bellows was struck with appendicitis from which he died at the age of 42.

Biography from The Columbus Museum of Art, Georgia:
George Wesley Bellows was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1882, where he remained until dropping out of Ohio State University after his junior year.  Moving to New York City Bellows started taking classes at the New York School of Art.  He studied under Robert Henri, the leader of the so-called “ashcan school,” a pejorative critics ascribed to Henri and his followers because they took their inspiration from the immigrants and common sights around the back streets and buildings in lower Manhattan.

At the age of twenty-seven, Bellows became the youngest member named as an associate of the National Academy of Design, and was made a full member at the age of thirty-one. Bellows helped to organize the famed Armory Show in 1913.  Bellows died prematurely in 1925, but not before developing as one of America’s finest realist painters.


Staff, Columbus Museum

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George Bellows is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Illustrators
New York Armory Show of 1913
Painters of Nudes
Olympic Artists
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915



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