George Wesley Bellows
born Aug. 12, 1882, Columbus, Ohio, U.S.
died Jan. 8, 1925, New York, N.Y.
American painter and lithographer noted for his paintings of action scenes
and for his expressive portraitsand seascapes.
Bellows attended Ohio State University before moving in 1904 to New York
City, where he studied at the New York School of Art under Robert Henri,
leader of the group of American realist painters called The
Eight.Bellows's early works show the influence of Henri in their dark,
tonal palette, vigorous brushwork, and urban subject matter; typical of
this period is Forty-Two Kids (1907), a painting of slum children swimming
and diving in the East River. Bellows's dramatic, evocative paintings
ofprizefights, such as Stag at Sharkey's and Both Members of This Club
(both 1909), date from this periodas well; they remain among his most
In 1909 Bellows was elected an associate member of the National Academy of
Design; he gained full membership in 1913. From 1910 he taught at the Art
Students League in NewYork. Between 1912 and 1917 he contributed
illustrations to the socialist magazine The Masses.
Bellows was one of the organizers of the Armory Show of 1913, which
introduced European modernist art to American artists and critics. The
show had a marked influence on Bellows, and he supported many of the
avant-garde art organizations then being established, including the
Society of Independent Artists, of which he was a founding director.
Although he remained a realist painter, his later works revealan
intensified interest in theory. He began to use a greater range of colour
and to experiment with various compositional systems. The subject matter
of his work also changed: many of the best works from this later period
are intimate portraits of friends and family members, including My Mother
(1921). He also turned increasingly to painting seascapes—notably at
Monhegan Island, Maine—and rural landscapes.
From 1916 Bellows experimented with lithography, producing nearly 200
prints. Among the best known is Dempsey and Firpo (1924; he also produced
a painting with this title), a boxing scene that displays the solid
modeling of form and geometric approach to design characteristic of
Bellows's later paintings.