George Bellows by Peter A. Juley & Son. Smithsonian American Art Museum
George Wesley Bellows
Date: American painter and lithographer, 1882–1925
School: Ashcan School
Biography: George Bellows was considered one of the nation's most important artists when he died at age 42 of a ruptured appendix. Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, Bellows attended Ohio State University from 1901 to 1904, where he played baseball and illustrated the yearbook. He left for New York just before graduation to pursue a career as an artist. He worked as a commercial illustrator and attended the New York School of Art, studying under Robert Henri. One of his classmates was Edward Hopper. Bellows' early paintings of city scenes, boxers, and tenement children demonstrate the influence of Henri's dictum to make art for life's sake. His signature style featured broad, slashing brushwork, and he produced seascapes in Maine using the same energetic strokes. His paintings quickly found an audience of enthusiastic critics and collectors among the supporters of the Ashcan School painters of the previous generation, including Henri and John Sloan. Unlike this prior generation, Bellows found immediate success; the Metropolitan Museum of Art purchased one of his paintings when he was only 29 years old. Bellows contributed to the Socialist periodical, The Masses, in the teens, but broke with many left-leaning artists in his support for the United States' entry into World War I. During the war, he produced a controversial series of paintings documenting German atrocities reported in the press. Bellows' late paintings featured tighter, more controlled brushwork and domestic and pastoral subjects.