Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Art Blogging: George Wesley Bellows

George Wesley Bellows (1882-1925) was an American Ash Can painter and printmaker. The Ash Can movement was a New York-centered American art movement which realistically depicted the urban lower classes and openly rejected European stylistic standards. He studied under Robert Henri and achieved critical success after 1908. Bellows was an active political anarchist, but split from his colleagues by supporting US entry into WWI. He later taught at the Art Students' League and the Art Institute of Chicago before his death.

Stag at Sharkey's (oil on canvas, 1909, Cleveland Museum of Art). At the time of this composition, public boxing matches were illegal, leading to the formation of fight clubs where competitors would be made 'members' on the spot, thus circumventing the law. Energy and motion pour off of this canvas. You can almost smell the dankness of cigar smoke, dust, and sweat and hear the roar of the crowds in approval at the violence.

The Drunk (lithograph, 1924). This work was created as an illustration for an article in Good Housekeeping in support of Prohibition. A wife and daughter try to restrain a lurching, lumbering drunken man from beating them. Bellows was a severe critic of modern urban life.

Emma and Her Children (oil on canvas, 1923, Museum of Fine Arts of Boston). Bellows was also employed as a portraitist to the East Coast elites and demonstrated his skills in this field with this depiction of his wife and children.

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