PORTLAND.-The Portland Museum of Art will open the exhibit The Powerful Hand of George Bellows: Drawings from the Boston Public Library on
April 10 and will run until June 1.
The great American realist painter George Bellows (1882–1925) has long been respected for his ability to capture the spirit and character of American life in the early 20th century. His well-known images convey the liveliness present in many aspects of American society, from the boxing ring to the seashore. This exhibition will feature 57 prints and drawings from the Boston Public Library, the most important collection of Bellows’s graphic art in the United States. These works have not been seen publicly since the 1950s.
Bellows first achieved notice in 1908, when he and other pupils of Henri organized an exhibition of mostly urban studies. While many critics considered these to be crudely painted, others found them welcomely audacious and a step beyond the work of his teacher. Bellows taught at the Art Students League of New York in 1909, although he was more interested in pursuing a career as a painter. His fame grew as he contributed to other nationally recognized juried shows.
Bellows' urban New York scenes depicted the crudity and chaos of working-class people and neighborhoods, and also satirized the upper classes. From 1907 through 1915, he executed a series of paintings depicting New York City under snowfall. These paintings were the main testing ground in which Bellows developed his strong sense of light and visual texture. These exhibited a stark contrast between the blue and white expanses of snow and the rough and grimy surfaces of city structures, and created an aesthetically ironic image of the equally rough and grimy men struggling to clear away the nuisance of the pure snow. However, Bellows' series of paintings portraying amateur boxing matches were arguably his signature contribution to art history. These paintings are characterized by dark atmospheres, through which the bright, roughly lain brushstrokes of the human figures vividly strike with a strong sense of motion and direction.
Organized by the Trust for Museum Exhibitions, Washington, D.C. in collaboration with the Boston Public Library.