Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Jill Krementz covers George Bellows at the Met

Entrance to the Exhibition.

George Bellows's first retrospective was a 1925 memorial show at the Metropolitan Museum. The current exhibition, the first of its scope to be devoted to Bellows in nearly half a century, was organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, in association with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Royal Academy of Arts, London.
George Bellows
November 15, 2012 - February 18, 2013
Metropolitan Museum

George Bellows (1882-1925) was regarded as one of America's greatest artists when he died, at the age of 42, from a ruptured appendix accompanied by peritonitis.

Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, George Bellows attended Ohio State University, where his athletic talents suggested that he might become a professional baseball player and his illustrations for the student yearbook hinted at an artistic calling.

Portrait of George Bellows wearing a hat, circa 1900, by Peter A. Juley
& Son.
In 1904, before graduating, he moved to New York City to study art as a student of Robert Henri, patriarch of the Ashcan School and one of America's most influential teachers in the period.  Edward Hopper, also born in 1882 within a month of Bellows, was a fellow student.

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, as well as illustrations and lithographs that addressed many of the social, political, and cultural issues of the day.

Most people, and that would have included me prior to viewing this retrospective, equate Bellows to boxing. During his lifetime Bellows's popularity arose from three early club fight paintings. One reason the boxing pictures were so well known is that they appeared during an era when public boxing was banned because of the sport's brutal violence and savagery. Even the spectators appeared bloodthirsty. By the time of his later pugilist paintings, however, boxing was no longer banned.

This superb retrospective of paintings, drawings, and lithographs, spanning ten galleries, has been organized in New York by H. Barbara Weinberg and Lisa M. Messinger. I'm guessing that you, like me, will marvel at the wide range of this exceptional artist who died when he was only 42. Sadder still, Bellows had, for three months, ignored the signs of chronic appendicitis.
Self-Portrait, 1921

In this portrait you can see the artist George Bellows reflected in the mirror. Bellows made very few portraits of himself.

This print is a rare exception, showing him full-face, alone in his home studio working on a lithographic stone. His likeness is reflected in a mirror with a scalloped border that also frames the artist’s image.

Like many of his contemporaries, Bellows relied on professional printers — in this case, Bolton Brown to realize his lithographic editions. In the
year this print was made, their first working together, they produced sixty editions.
Curator Barbara Weinberg, who worked with The National Gallery for two years on the exhibition. The exhibit originated in Washington D.C. before traveling on the Met.
Lisa M. Messinger, Associate Curator, who helped organize the exhibition. Morrison Heckscher has been a curator at the Met for over thirty years and now heads The American Wing.
May Day in Central Park, 1905
Oil on canvas
Forty-two Kids, painted in August 1907, depicts a band of boys sunning themselves and bathing in Manhattan’s muddy East River.

In turn-of-the-century slang, “kids” referred to the streetwise children of recently arrived, working-class immigrants living in Lower East Side tenements. The canvas was initially awarded the Lippincott Prize at the 1908 annual exhibition of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, but the honor was withdrawn over fears that the sponsor would object to the naked children.

Bellows commented, “No, it was the naked painting they feared.” Nonetheless, Forty-two Kids was purchased within a year of its completion, marking the second sale of Bellows’s career.
Beach at Coney Island, 1908
Oil on canvas
Paddy Flannigan, 1908
Oil on canvas
Little Girl in White (Queenie Burnett), 1907
Oil on canvas

Queenie Burnett visited Bellows's apartment and studio each week to pick up and deliver laundry. While Bellows conveys her dignity, his contemporaries probably would not have mistaken her for a privileged young lady.

The full-length format aligns the work with a venerable tradition of portraiture and reflects Bellows's admiration for artists such as Diego Velázquez.
View of one of the ten galleries devoted to Bellows's work.

Featuring some 120 works from his extensive oeuvre, this landmark exhibition (organized by The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.) is the first comprehensive retrospective of the artist's career since 1966.

The viewer is invited to experience the dynamic and challenging decades of the early 20th century through the eyes of a brilliant observer.

Bellows had close ties to the Metropolitan Museum. He was inspired by paintings in its collection, to which one of his own was added in 1911 — when he was only 29 years old — and his first retrospective was the Met's 1925 memorial exhibition commemorating the artist's untimely death.
Nude Girl, Miss Leslie Hall, 1909

Bellows would become the leading young member of the Ashcan School artists, all of whom Robert Henri inspired.

The Ashcan artists aimed to chronicle the realities of daily life, and Bellows was the boldest and most versatile among them in his choice of subjects, palettes, and techniques.

Bellows never traveled abroad, but learned the lessons of European masters—such as El Greco, Francisco de Goya, Édouard Manet, and others who nourished Ashcan realism—by studying their works in museums, including the Metropolitan.
Club Night, 1907
Oil on canvas

Having played basketball and baseball in college, Bellows was attracted to all kinds of sports and used them as subjects throughout his career.

His early fight scenes, made over a period of little more than two years, capture the passion for boxing that prevailed about 1900, reflected also in Jack London’s writings and in Theodore Roosevelt’s engagement with the sport as an amateur fighter.

Bellows summarizes the intensity of the two pugilists’ encounter with ferocious painterly shorthand. He increases the drama by condensing the ring to a bright sliver of space, compressing the men’s towering, agitated forms with the upper edge of the canvas.

Illuminating the smoky interior with hellish light, Bellows places the observer in the second row amid the bloodthirsty crowd.
Stag at Sharkey’s, 1909
Oil on canvas

Bellows recorded brawls at the sleazy athletic club run by the retired pugilist Tom Sharkey, located opposite his studio at Broadway and Sixty-sixth Street.

Clubs such as Sharkey’s evaded a 1900 ordinance outlawing public prizefighting by selling memberships—to men only—instead of charging admission.

Seizing the essence of raw male aggression in his boxing pictures, inscribing their intensity in slashing brushwork, Bellows repudiated Victorian piety and provoked critical controversy.

Exploring the fundamental theme of human violence through one of the most provocative subjects of his day, he created works that were at once timeless and topical. The savage energy of Stag at Sharkey’s is concentrated in the two brutal boxers.

As Bellows observed in a 1910 letter to an Ohio acquaintance, “the atmosphere around the fighters is a lot more immoral than the fighters themselves.”
Many of the grotesque patrons at ringside are flushed and thrilled to be cheering on the vicious bout.
Crouched in the first row at the far side of the ring, under the referee’s outstretched arm, is a figure who seems to be peering up from his sketch pad, perhaps a stand-in for Bellows himself.
Summer Night, Riverside Drive
1909, Oil on canvas

Bellows once commented that “there is nothing I do not want to know that has to do with life or art.”

He drew equal inspiration from municipal workers removing snow from the city’s streets, longshoremen loading and unloading cargo from ocean liners and freighters, and the ladies and gentlemen who created a rich visual pageantry as they enjoyed New York’s parks.

The variety of Bellows’s urban subjects was matched by the range of palettes and techniques he employed, often on immense canvases. Few would have disputed a critic who observed of Bellows at the time of his death, “He was an adherent of ‘wallop’ in painting.”
Pennsylvania Station Excavation, 1909
Oil on Canvas

Having arrived in 1904 from Columbus (population 125,000 in 1900), Bellows explored New York (population 3.5 million in 1900) with wonder and curiosity.

Among his exceptional works was a series of canvases recording the excavations for the Pennsylvania Railroad Station.

One of the largest building projects in the country, the station entailed the razing of two city blocks—from Thirty-first to Thirty- third Streets between Seventh and Eighth Avenues.

Completed in 1910, Penn Station covered eight acres and featured a magnificent terminal designed in the Beaux Arts style by the architectural firm McKim, Mead & White (demolished 1963–66). Bellows was much less interested in the splendid structure than in the primordial pit where workmen toiled and sometimes lost their lives.
New York
1911, Oil on canvas

Bellows generally preferred to paint Manhattan’s periphery. In this unusual composite view of a midtown business district, which pertains most closely to Madison Square, he presents the city as a place in constant flux.

Packing the scene with skyscrapers, billboards, and chimneys spewing smoke; an elevated train station and tracks; horse-drawn carriages and motorcars snarled in traffic; and sidewalks filled with men and women of all economic backgrounds, he denies the viewer’s eye a resting place.

New York’s modern tumult, with countless details of sight and sound crowding in on one another, was as new and impenetrable to Bellows as it was to any of his contemporaries.
Detail of New York.
Blue Snow, The Battery
1910, Oil on canvas

Bellows depicts Battery Park, at the southern tip of Manhattan, under a blanket of fresh snow.

Tugboats are barely visible in the distant harbor’s dark blue water. Bellows suggests a nearly rural quality, even in an urban setting, emphasizing smooth, flat expanses of space and a sense of emptiness, despite the presence of a few quickly painted pedestrians.

This was one of eighteen oils that Bellows included in his first solo exhibition, in January 1911. Although one critic mocked its aggressive paint handling as “assault and battery,” most others praised Bellows’s technique. One wrote, “He suggests life and force by the swiftness of his brush stroke and the elimination of non-essential forms.”
Detail of Blue Snow, The Battery.
Men of the Docks, 1912
Oil on canvas
Detail of Men of the Docks.
Love of Winter, 1914
Oil on canvas
Easter Snow, 1915
Oil on canvas
Detail of Easter Snow.
A Day in June, 1913
Oil on canvas
Polo at Lakewood, 1910

In contrast to his grittier depictions of modern American life, Bellows also portrayed the leisured upper class.

After attending a polo match in April 1910 at the Lakewood, New Jersey, estate of the financier George Jay Gould, Bellows began a series of polo scenes on the heels of his brutal boxing images.

Attending popular sporting events such as tennis, polo, and golf was as much about being seen as it was about seeing the games, and Bellows often featured the well-dressed spectators more than the players.
Details of Polo at Lakewood.

The exclusive sport’s carefully groomed riders, ponies, and spectators seemed at odds with its inherent violence, a contrast that fascinated Bellows. In this canvas he conveys action through powerful diagonals, slashing brushwork, and freely applied paint.

Journalists at the time lauded polo for its bracing masculinity—similar to that of Teddy Roosevelt’s esteemed rough riding—and its emphasis on old-fashioned horsemanship in the dawning era of the
motorcar.
The Sea, 1911–17

In August 1911, at the invitation of his teacher Robert Henri, Bellows made the first of five visits to Maine, long a popular destination for artists. There, he captured the awe-inspiring natural forces that shaped the region, and portrayed the fishermen who made their living from the surrounding waters.

Bellows was especially drawn to Monhegan Island, a rocky landmass barely a mile square, located ten miles off the midcoast. Winslow Homer’s Maine seascapes of the 1890s—four of which were in the Metropolitan Museum’s collection by 1911—inspired Bellows, but he exceeded even Homer in distilling nature to its fundamental elements.

Bellows usually painted outdoors, on small panels that he could develop into large canvases in his island studio or when he returned to New York City. While nature was his primary focus, he did produce a series of paintings on his final visit in 1916 that featured shipbuilders at work in Camden, Maine. In northern California the following summer, Bellows once again found inspiration in the sea. The more than 250 seascapes and shore scenes that he created between 1911 and 1917 account for half of his output as a painter.
Shore House, 1911
Oil on canvas

Before going to Maine for the first time in 1911, Bellows was familiar with New York’s Long Island shore, where he visited family as a child and had honeymooned, at Montauk, in the fall of 1910.

He completed this painting—his first great coastal scene—in January 1911, after a sketch made during that honeymoon trip.
Detail of Shore House

The picture’s austerity and sense of isolation, underscored by the lone building on a barren cliff, pay homage to Winslow Homer, whose works both Bellows and his friend Edward Hopper admired. When Shore House appeared soon after its completion in Bellows’s first one-man show in New York, the New York Times duly noted and applauded its relationship to Homer.
Shipyard Society, 1916
Oil on panel
Churn and Break, 1913

Some of Bellows’s most powerful paintings from 1913 are close-up views of surf crashing against the rocky shore.

Disorienting in their compressed space and obscured horizons, they recall Winslow Homer’s late seascapes, such as Northeaster (1895).

Like Homer, Bellows used exuberant brushstrokes and viscous oil paint to convey the swelling motion and explosive sprays of water and foam, but he went beyond Homer’s example to suggest nature’s unbridled energy. Painting directly on a panel, as here, or on canvas, without making preliminary sketches, he applied his colors wet-into-wet, rather than mixing them on a palette.

He may have been inspired to use such modern methods after seeing avant-garde art at New York’s Armory Show earlier that year.
An Island in the Sea, 1914
Oil on canvas

Viewed across the harbor from Monhegan Island, where Bellows was staying in 1911, the islet of Manana appears disproportionately large in this canvas. To the right is a bit of Smutty Nose Island.

Although Bellows began the composition by referring to his small plein-air studies of the individual islands, the final painting is one of his most abstract.

Bellows may have been emulating James McNeill Whistler, whose atmospheric seascapes merging sea and sky had been exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum the previous year.

Writing to his wife in New York, Bellows noted that An Island in the Sea was “a real sure enough masterpiece,” on a par with Shore House (also on view in this gallery). He sold it almost immediately at his next one-man show.
In a Rowboat, 1916
Oil on canvas
Detail from In a Rowboat.
Cliff Dwellers, 1913
Oil on canvas

The term “cliff dwellers” refers to the Native Americans of the Southwest who lived in stratified cave dwellings cut into the sides of steep cliffs.

Here, multistory tenement buildings on the Lower East Side are overcrowded to the point of bursting. Residents spill onto the streets and hang out of windows to get some relief from the summer heat. Penned in by walls of brick, they seem unable to escape their circumstances.

As one New York City official lamented, “It is simply impossible to pack human beings into these hives . . . and not have them suffer in health and morals.”

While the picture appears to have a political agenda, Bellows professed his commitment only to personal and artistic freedom.
Detail of Cliff Dwellers.
Riverfront, No. 1, 1914
Oil on canvas

The theme of naked boys swimming in New York City’s East River, lounging along its banks, and using its wooden docks as their “beach” reprises Bellows’s earlier paintings River Rats (1906) and Forty-two Kids (1907), on view in the first gallery of the exhibition.

Here, however, he emphasizes the individual characters and the small vignettes in which they play a part, as well as boats on the congested river.

Bellows manages to orchestrate nearly one hundred figures in this complex scene that fills one of his largest canvases.
The Sawdust Trail, 1916, Oil on canvas

In January 1915 Bellows and the radical journalist John Reed traveled to Philadelphia to gather material for a magazine exposé on Billy Sunday, one of the most popular evangelical preachers of the day. Sunday was suspected of greed and corruption, but despite such allegations, each of his revival meetings attracted more than twenty thousand people and collectively raised more than one million dollars between 1908 and 1920.

The scene here shows a group of believers making their way across the sawdust-covered floor to shake Sunday’s hand.

Although Bellows personally denounced the preacher, he showed him to be a charismatic figure and even inserted himself into the scene as the tall balding man standing in profile in the foreground (left of center).
Details from The Sawdust Trail.
Lithograph of Billy Sunday.
Massacre at Dinant, 1918
Oil on canvas

In July 1918, Bellows completed this painting, the first of five in his war series.

It memorializes the slaughter of 674 Belgian citizens, including women and children, in the town of Dinant on August 23, 1914, shortly after war had begun.

The dead lie in the foreground, while a mass of helpless clergy and townspeople behind them avert their eyes from their own likely fate.

At the far left, as dark storm clouds roll in, the arrival of more German troops is signaled by the bloodied bayonet held by a partially visible soldier and the barrage of raised rifles.

The Germans Arrive, 1918
Oil on canvas

The War, 1918

The reported atrocities committed by German soldiers against Belgian civilians during World War I prompted Bellows to undertake his most ambitious, and ultimately most problematic, cycle of works.

Devoting himself to the project between the spring and fall of 1918, he created many drawings, lithographs, and five monumental oil paintings that imagine in horrific detail the acts described in the American press and in the British government’s Bryce Committee Report (1915).

It was one of the few times that Bellows had not observed his subjects firsthand. Although Bellows initially was ambivalent about America’s entry into the war, in April 1917, and did not serve in the military, his pictures were used for propaganda and to sell war bonds.

Bellows’s adherence to the artist Jay Hambidge’s theory of “Dynamic Symmetry” gave these compositions the appearance of tableaux, with figures frozen on well-lit stages. The artificiality of their structure played against the graphic violence depicted, making them visually arresting but deeply
disturbing. Throughout 1919 they were widely published and exhibited, but after the accuracy of the
Bryce Committee Report was called into question, the most explicitly violent images, such as The
Germans Arrive, were rarely, if ever, shown.
The Barricade, 1918
Oil on canvas

One of the atrocities substantiated in the Bryce Committee Report was the German army’s use of Belgian citizens as human shields. Eyewitness accounts and photographs document how civilians were forced to march ahead of the advancing troops to deter local opposition.

While the victims were never reported to be naked, Bellows portrays them as such to emphasize their vulnerability and innocence.

Posed like martyrs in Renaissance paintings, with arms raised and faces averted, they are universal symbols of pain and suffering. A print depicting naked warriors by the Italian artist Antonio Pollaiuolo (ca. 1495–after 1567) was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum in 1917 and may have been another source for these figures.
The Studio, 1919

Completed in March 1919, this Christmas scene at Bellows’s Manhattan townhouse (146 East 19th Street) was based on a black-and-white lithograph he had made three years earlier.

Pictured are three generations of his family: the artist painting a portrait of his wife (lower left), his two young daughters (Anne, age 7, and Jean, age 3), and his mother-in-law talking on the telephone, attended by a maid.
Detail of The Studio. You can see a close-up of George Bellows's two young daughters: Anne, age 7, and Jean, age 3.
Detail: George Bellows painting his wife. Detail: The artist's mother-in-law talking on the telephone, attended by a maid.
The man seated at the printing press in the balcony studio is probably George Miller, who printed Bellows's lithographs at the time.
Emma in Black Print, 1919

Bellows’s wife, Emma, was his lifelong artistic muse. They met as fellow students at the New York School of Art, shortly after Bellows arrived in the city, and were married in 1910.

Bellows painted Emma in many guises, at times evoking the creative dimensions of their shared life.

Bellows’s numerous portraits of women depict them at all stages of life and offer a compelling counterpoint to the essentially male world of his better-known boxing paintings
Emma in the Purple Dress, 1919

In the summer of 1919, Bellows painted both Emma in the Purple Dress and Emma in Black Print.

The sculptural solidity of the two portraits connects them to the old master tradition and to Thomas Eakins, whose 1917 memorial exhibition Bellows visited at the Metropolitan Museum.

Like Eakins’s best portraits of women, Bellows’s images of his wife seem to peer into the mystery of womanhood yet lead the viewer back to the sitter as an individual.
Emma at the Piano, 1914
Oil on panel

Emma at the Piano unites visual and musical elements in ways that recall James McNeill Whistler’s subtly orchestrated portraits, also painted with limited palettes.

Expressing how central Emma was to his artistic identity, Bellows wrote to her early in their marriage, “Can I tell you that your heart is in me and your portrait is in all my work? What can a man say to a woman who absorbs his whole life?”
Details of Emma at the Piano.
Mrs. T. in Wine Silk, 1919
Oil on canvas

Mrs. Mary Brown Tyler, a socialite in her late seventies whom Bellows met in the fall of 1919 while he was teaching at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Known for her old-fashioned attire and wit, Mrs. Tyler first posed for him in a lavish wine-colored silk dress, which heightened her complexion.
Mrs. T in Cream Silk, 1919
Oil on canvas

At his request, Mrs. T posed again for Bellows this time in her 1863 cream silk wedding gown, which emphasized her pallor.

Both canvases call to mind portraits by Thomas Eakins, whose probing realism Bellows had inherited through Robert Henri and had seen firsthand in the 1917 memorial exhibition of Eakins's works at the Metropolitan Museum.
Geraldine Lee, No. 2, 1914
Oil on panel

Formal experiment characterizes many of Bellows's late works, including his portraits.

Increasingly interested in compositional structure, he investigated the play of explicit geometries in depicting Geraldine Lee, the daughter of the writer Gerald Stanley Lee and his wife, Jennette, a literature professor at Smith College.
Margarite, 1919
Oil on panel
Lillian, 1916
Oil on panel
Madeline Davis, 1914
Oil on panel

Madeline Davis was the orphaned granddaughter of the postmaster of Monhegan Island, Maine. The painting is one of several dramatic, fire-lit portraits, including Emma at the Piano and Geraldine Lee, No. 2, both on view in this gallery, that Bellows painted on the island during the rainy summer of 1914.
Gramercy Park, 1920
Oil on canvas
Emma and her Children, 1923
Oil on canvas

This painting shows his wife and two daughters elegantly attired, sitting on a sofa in an arrangement that calls to mind Auguste Renoir's Madame Charpentier and her Children, Georgette-Berthe and Paul-Émile-Charles, which entered the Metropolitan's collection in 1907.

Painting this monumental portrait just weeks after his mother died, Bellows enlisted a somber palette and stoic poses that invoke the Old Master canvases he admired more than the lightness of Impressionism.
The White Horse, 1922
Oil on canvas

From April to September 1922, while Bellows was building a vacation home in Woodstock, he had little time to paint. Afterward, however, he produced twenty paintings in November alone, including this one.

He wrote to Robert Henri that his daily routine involved "going out every day [with artists Eugene Speicher and Charles Rosen] at 8:30 and coming home at dark with landscapes."

The friends traveled in Bellows's car with their art supplies strapped to the running board in a wheelbarrow that doubled as a makeshift easel. With its visionary view of nature, pictures like this one are very different from his previous landscapes and seem to strive for something beyond simple realism.
Mr. and Mrs. Philip Wase, 1924
Oil on canvas
Detail of Mr. and Mrs. Philip Wase.
Elinor, Jean and Anna, 1920
Oil on canvas

In this solemn meditation on youth, old age, and family bonds, Bellows places his younger daughter, Jean, between the family matriarchs—his mother, Anna (on the right), and her sister, Aunt Fanny (Elinor Daggett).
The elder women's hands and faces emerge dramatically from the darkness, inviting comparison to paintings by Thomas Eakins, Rembrandt, and especially to Frans Hals's Regentesses of the Old Men's Almshouse (ca. 1664).
Detail of Anna's book.
Two Women, 1924
Oil on canvas

Completed in October 1924, this was the last large figural composition that Bellows painted in Woodstock, just three months before he died.

Although he originally called it Two Sisters, he changed the title to Two Women to avoid moralistic judgments based on the word "sisters," which at the time also connoted lesbians.

The primary inspiration for his composition was Titian's allegorical painting Sacred and Profane Love (ca.1514).
Regardless of the painting's title, Bellows created tension in his juxtaposition of these two women—one heavily clothed, the other nude and suggestively pinching a small green necklace bead.
Close-up of the two adorable dogs in Two Women.
Fisherman's Family, 1923
Oil on canvas
Detail of Fisherman's Family.
The Picnic, 1924
Oil on canvas

Painted in New York in April 1924, before Bellows left for the country, this scene recalls a family outing that must have taken place the previous summer.

Cooper Lake, where the scene is set, was a popular destination near Woodstock for summer picnics and winter ice-skating.

Here, the artist (at left) casts a fishing line into the water, while his wife, Emma, sets out lunch for their two daughters (at center); their friend, the painter Eugene Speicher, naps on the ground (at right).

Bellows's overly dramatic and somewhat ominous rendering of the landscape and sky may have been influenced by his unhappy memories of the previous summer, when his mother was sick and dying.
Detail from The Picnic showing Bellows' two daughters.
My House. Woodstock, 1924
Oil on panel

During what were to be the last years of his life, Bellows spent the summers in Woodstock, New York, a rural arts community in the Catskill Mountains. There he communed with nature, the local townspeople, and a close circle of family and artist-friends.

His most important works from the period were the monumental figure paintings he executed with old-master grandeur.
Dempsey and Firpo, 1924
Oil on canvas

In one of his last paintings, Bellows returned to the subject of boxing, which had established his reputation.

Having been commissioned to depict the Dempsey vs Firpo championship fight on September 14, 1923, at New York's Polo Grounds, he immortalized the most startling moment of the first round in a stop-action frieze frame.

The Argentinian challenger, Luis Ángel Firpo, has knocked the champion, Jack Dempsey, out of the ring — although Dempsey would go on to triumph in the second round.

The stylized figures, limited palette, and dramatic tension capture the essence of the sport and seem to signal a new — and unrealized — direction of Bellows's art.

This would be Bellows's last masterpiece, On January 8, 1925, at the age of forty-two, Bellows died from a ruptured appendix.

The writer Sherwood Anderson concluded that Bellows's last paintings "keep telling you things. They are telling you that Mr. George Bellows died too young. They are telling you that he was after
something, that he was always after it."
Details from Dempsey and Firpo.

Prints of this classic painting used to hang in the gyms where boxers trained.

Even though Dempsey is the one getting knocked out, he came back and knocked Firpo out of the ring. This was a classic feat as Firpo outweighed Dempsey by at least 60 pounds and was at least a foot taller. That's why they called Dempsey the "Mannassas Mauler."

In case you are wondering how I know all this, it is thanks to Yvonne Rosetti's father Alexander, who just turned 86. A print of this hung on the wall over his desk and he wrote to me when I included this painting in my photojournal two years ago. I was writing about Edward Hopper and his contemporaries, an exhibit at The Whitney Museum.
Details from Dempsey and Firpo.
The Met gift shop is a great place to do some holiday shopping.

The lavishly illustrated color catalogue with essays on aspects of Bellows's career by prominent scholars. Published by the National Gallery of Art, the catalogue is available in the Metropolitan Museum's book shop (paperback, $40).
Some T-shirts.
More gifts to pack a wallop.

Text and photographs © by Jill Krementz: all rights reserved. Contact Jill Krementz here.