George Bellows (1882-1925):

Modern American Life


SLATER-Bellows p4

An afternoon with George Bellows at the Royal Academy, and an exhibition of contrasts.

Gatherings in open spaces, and in claustrophobic cityscapes and interiors. Freezing winters, suffocating summers. Powerful, stark structures of a city metamorphosing into a modern age. The rural idyll of fields and sea. Urchins bathing naked or hurling cans at each other in slum gutters. Rich crones and pampered socialites playing tennis or skating. City inhabitants stacked in tenements and as a human tsunami wave surging through streets of high rise. Countrysides for relaxing strolls in sun and snow. Crowds with blurred and smeared faces cheer on boxers disfiguring each other in brutal combat, their blooded flesh painted like carcasses hanging in an abattoir. Portraits of the clean and well dressed ‘Nouveau Riche’.

The dark and sordid, the light and happy. An artist of opposites. Early works bristle with risk and sweaty energy, later compositions with safety, calm and tranquility. Regardless of the subject, the successful pieces for me were active and animated, physical configurations flourishing with exuberant brushstrokes and vigorously scribbled lines – and Life! With a capital L. That’s the Bellows I’ll remember. A painter with an adrenalin rush of mark making!

SLATER-Bellows p1   SLATER-Bellows p2   SLATER-Bellows p3