Posts Tagged ‘George Bellows’

Blue snow on the Battery in wintertime

January 5, 2015

No one paints New York City in the winter, in all of its blue and white harshness and beauty, quite like George Bellows.

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Looking at “Blue Snow, the Battery,” from 1910, you can just feel the chill coming off New York Harbor, and how much colder it must be for the men standing in those shadows.

Looking at the new bridge at Blackwell’s Island

November 17, 2014

Does any painter capture the raw, gritty energy of turn-of-the-century New York City like George Bellows?

This painting, “The Bridge, Blackwell’s Island,” was completed in 1909, not long after the Queensboro Bridge opened, solidifying the modern metropolis.

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“The artist depicted the bridge from an unusually low angle to convey its overwhelming scale: the bridge’s stone piers dominate the canvas as they rest solidly on Blackwell’s Island (now Roosevelt Island),” states the Toledo Museum, where the painting hangs.

“Bellows’ signature bold, swift brushstrokes recreate a steamboat’s struggle against the river’s natural force, while the gritty cityscape dissolves into a haze of mud-colored paint.”

“In the shadowed foreground stands a group of engrossed onlookers, peering through the railing at a rapidly changing modern American city.”

A “distinctly vulgar scene” at Coney Island

August 22, 2014

Painter George Bellows depicts a day at the seashore in “Beach at Coney Island”: shirtless boys, a passionate couple, and girls in white bathing attire, all in close quarters at the city’s tawdry summer amusement playground.

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Suggestive, sure, but it’s hard to believe that the painting was considered vulgar by critics.

“His Beach at Coney Island (1908, private collection) signals the relaxed moral codes associated with this locale on Brooklyn’s south shore,” states this page from the website of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which included the painting in the big George Bellows show from 2012-2013.

“One leading critic described Bellows’s teeming view as ‘a distinctly vulgar scene,’ not least because of the amorous couple shown embracing in the foreground.”

Summer night enchantment on Riverside Drive

June 9, 2014

Ashcan School painter and social realist George Bellows recreates the magic and mystery of one moment in time from a summer’s night in 1909.

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What a glow from both the street lamp and the moonlight! The light and colors are similar to this Bellows’ painting, done in 1920 closer to his home turf inside Gramercy Park.

A little girl’s enchantment with Gramercy Park

September 9, 2013

George Bellows’ 1920 painting Gramercy Park explodes with light and color. It’s a park he knew well; he and his family lived around the corner on East 19th Street.

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“The central figure in white is Bellows’s older daughter Anne and situated just behind her in a purple frock is [second daughter] Jean,” states Christies.com.

“Bellows, in the present work depicts the corner of the park bordering Gramercy Park South and Gramercy Park West. The columns that make up the imposing Tuscan facade of the theater club known as The Players located next to the National Arts Club at 16 Gramercy Park West are just visible along the left edge of the composition.

“Facing the viewer in the background beyond the iron fence are the row of brownstones that line Gramercy Park West.”

Skinny dipping off a broken East River pier

June 28, 2013

George Bellows always seems to have such empathy for his subjects, especially poor street kids—like the ones in his 1907 painting 42 Kids.

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In a review of a recent Bellows show in London, a reviewer from The Guardian wrote this:

“[In 42 Kids] Bellows swiftly tallies the figures—’kids’ not ‘lads’ or even ‘boys’—suggesting their closeness to a litter of cubs or pups—who use a derelict pier as the diving board from which they hurl themselves into one of Manhattan’s turbid rivers.”

George Bellows paints the raw New York winter

December 27, 2012

Realist painter and longtime East 19th Street resident George Bellows is best known for his bold views of amateur boxers as well as the grittiness of urban life in the early 20th century.

He painted scenes showing every season. But there’s something about his depictions of New York beneath cold gray skies, covered in snow, or surrounded by ice that captures the city’s abrasive, isolating winters.

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“Pennsylvania Station Excavation,” from 1907-1908, puts the fiery equipment brought in to clear out 31st to 33rd Streets between snowy ground and an icy sky.

“The scene has an infernal quality, with the digging machinery circled by small fires and rising smoke near the center of the snowy pit, and all overshadowed by a massive building from which soot streams across the acid blue of a winter sunset,” states the website for the Brooklyn Museum.

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“Snow Dumpers,” painted in 1911, shows us overcoat-clad city workers and snorting horses tasked with carrying loads of snow from Manhattan streets to be dumped into the choked-with-traffic East River.

The skies over the river and Brooklyn Bridge look gray and frigid, and the snow has streaks of blue.

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“Steaming Streets,” from 1908, reveals winter as an agent of chaos. “[The painting] is dealing with a fleeting, highly charged moment during winter in New York when weather and traffic conditions have combined to create havoc in the street,” explains the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.

“Immediately one feels that the vapors from the melting snow and slush are unsettling the horses and adding to the annoyance of the driver, who is forcibly braking them against the oncoming trolley and team to its left.”

The Met’s George Bellows exhibit runs until February 18, a powerful collection of paintings by an artist with a sharp eye for the moods of his adopted city.

The “river rats” taking a swim off Manhattan

July 30, 2012

Painter George Bellows chronicled many of New York’s slum streets and tenements.

In 1906’s gritty and dark River Rats, he portrays the poor kids who spent summer evenings cooling off in the filthy East River, the docks and rocks their only respite from the heat of the city.

“Along the lower edge of the muddy-colored canvas a gangling group of scantily clad boys is depicted cavorting at the edge of the East River, while the center of the painting is given over to the graceless, rocky cliff descending from the city streets to the water,” writes Marianne Doezema in George Bellows and Urban America.

The rocky cliff in the painting—perhaps it was part of the old Gashouse District in the East 20s or Dutch Hill in the East 40s and 50s, which became an industrial area packed with slaughterhouses and factories before being razed to make way for Tudor City in the 1920s?

The messy, crowded, chaotic city of 1911

November 15, 2011

It’s hard to say where the sidewalk ends and the street begins in Ashcan School artist George Bellows’ New York, painted in 1911.

It belongs to the National Gallery of Art in Washington and is one of Bellows’ energetic depictions of a crude, crammed New York  in the early 20th century.

Bellows also revealed a more desolate side to the city, like this raw portrait of a single tenement by the East River.

“The Lone Tenement” beside the East River

May 27, 2011

George Bellows painted many busy, emotional New York scenes in the early 20th century. “The Lone Tenement,” from 1909, depicts a raw city and its cast-off residents.

“George Bellows was a poet of the city, an artist who loved New York as much as Monet loved his garden or Bierstadt loved the Rocky Mountains,” states Artcyclopedia.com.

“There are so many things to look at in this picture that Bellows hardly knows where to direct our attention: sunlight randomly glinting on a window, transients huddled around a fire, a horse-drawn carriage, a ship belching steam on the East River, and in the center a lonely building withering in the shadow of the then-brand-new Queensboro Bridge.”


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