24 August 2016 | 22 °C

Art Review: George Bellows @ Royal Academy

Art Review: George Bellows @ Royal Academy
George Bellows
 16 March 2013 to 9 June 2013
 
 Key. 24  /  Cat. 17
 
 George Bellows
 Stag at Sharkey's, 1909
 oil on canvas
 92 x 112.6 cm
 The Cleveland Museum of Art, Hinman B. Hurlbut Collection
 �© The Cleveland Museum of Art
 
 Exhibition organised by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, in association with the Royal Academy of Arts, London, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York .
George Bellows Stag at Sharkey's, 1909. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Hinman B. Hurlbut Collection. © The Cleveland Museum of Art
George Bellows
 16 March 2013 to 9 June 2013
 
 Key. 34  /  Cat. 37
 
 George Bellows
 Men of the Docks, 1912
 oil on canvas
 114.3 x 161.3 cm
 Randolph College, Founded as Randoph - Macon Woman's College in 1891, Lynchburg
 
 Exhibition organised by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, in association with the Royal Academy of Arts, London, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York .
George Bellows Men of the Docks, 1912. Randolph College, Founded as Randoph - Macon Woman's College in 1891, Lynchburg
George Bellows
 16 March 2013 to 9 June 2013
 
 Key. 31  /  Cat. 25
 
 George Bellows
 North River, 1908
 Oil on canvas
 83.5 x 109.2 cm
 Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 
 Joseph E. Temple Fund
 
 Exhibition organised by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, in association with the Royal Academy of Arts, London, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
George Bellows North River, 1908. Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Joseph E. Temple Fund
George Bellows
 16 March 2013 to 9 June 2013
 
 Key. 15  /  Cat. 42
 
 George Bellows
 Love of Winter, 1914
 oil on canvas
 82.6 x 102.9 cm
 The Art Institute of Chicago, Friends of American Art Collection
    Photography �© The Art Institute of Chicago
 
 Exhibition organised by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, in association with the Royal Academy of Arts, London, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York .
George Bellows Love of Winter, 1914. The Art Institute of Chicago, Friends of American Art Collection Photography © The Art Institute of Chicago
George Bellows
 16 March 2013 to 9 June 2013
 
 Key. 10  /  Cat. 24
 
 George Bellows
 New York, 1911
 oil on canvas
 106.7 x 152.4 cm
 National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon
 Image courtesy of the Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington 
 Photograph Greg Williams
 
 Exhibition organised by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, in association with the Royal Academy of Arts, London, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York .
George Bellows New York, 1911. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon Image courtesy of the Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington Photograph Greg Williams
George Bellows
 16 March 2013 to 9 June 2013
 
 Key. 108  /  Cat. 74
 
 George Bellows
 Emma at the Piano, 1914
 oil on panel
 73 x 94 cm
 Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Gift of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.
 Photo �© Courtesy of the Bellows Trust
 
 Exhibition organised by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, in association with the Royal Academy of Arts, London, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York .
George Bellows Emma at the Piano, 1914. Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Gift of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr. Photo .© Courtesy of the Bellows Trust

Alongside Edward Hopper and Norman Rockwell, George Bellows is considered one of America's finest painters - yet he is not that well known outside of the States. This exhibition aims to remedy this fact by showcasing his attempts to capture New York city life from the bustle of Times Square to Battery Park in the snow. It also charts his development as an artist during his short career; he died aged only 42.

Bellows' distinctive style lends itself to the dark and disturbing, so much so that when he tries to capture moments of innocence and happiness his subjects feel inhuman - whether it be the inky blackness of the eyes of a little girl or the contorted bodies of boys playing on a pier. These serene works appeared both in his early and late career but he never quite mastered representing the more mundane aspects of life.

Bellows is most famous for his energetic paintings and drawings of boxing matches and these rightfully dominate the exhibition. His most recognisable work, Stag at Sharkeys, features two gladiators locked in a bloody embrace as a baying crowd eggs them on. The deliberate lack of facial detail accentuates the bloodlust and visceral animalism of the scene - this is apparent in both the competitors and the audience.

Despite his excellent boxing paintings our favourite is the gloomy 'Excavation at Night' where the foreboding pit recognises the lives that were lost in paving the way for Pennsylvania Railway station. It's in exploring the uglier side of humanity that Bellows excels as can also be seen in his powerful portrayals of the first world war.

Outside of the US Bellows doesn't have a significant footprint but this exhibition cements the case for Bellows to be considered one of the 20th century's greatest painters.

George Bellows: Modern American Life is on at the Royal Academy of Arts from 16 March until 9 June. Tickets are £10, concessions available.

Also still on at the Royal Academy is the excellent Manet exhibition.

Last Updated 16 July 2015

Tabish Khan

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