The first full retrospective in more than three decades of American artist George Bellows will open at the National Gallery of Art next year, the museum announced Thursday.
Bellows, one of the famed artists of the Armory Show in 1913, was an important transitional figure between the Victorian and modern eras. Widely known for his dramatic scenes of boxers and urban life, Bellows was interested in everything around him. His work is celebrated for its detailed renderings of dreary life in New York with laundry hanging out apartment windows and people crowded on tenement steps. But he found a contrast in the lyrical views of snow in the parks and formal portraits, mostly of his family.
The exhibit, which was organized by the gallery, will include about 140 paintings, drawings and lithographs. The last major exhibition of Bellows’ paintings was mounted 20 years ago at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Thirty years ago the National Gallery did a show of his boxing paintings and in 1957 Bellows was the subject of the Gallery’s first solo artist exhibition.
“We want to establish a more expansive view of Bellows. He was a hugely ambitious painter, yet he is known in a very narrow way. This is a survey of his entire career. You can misunderstand Bellows if you look at him too narrowly,” said Charles Brock, associate curator for the gallery’s American and British paintings. “We want to introduce him to new generations.”
Bellows was a complicated artist and individual, often underappreciated. “Look at the way he depicts New York. In our Chester Dale show we put Bellows’ “Blue Morning” between two works by Monet. You can see how innovative Bellow was in terms of color and concepts of the city,’ said Brock.
His influence needs to be restated, said Brock. He was born about the same time as Picasso . “This generation navigates the transition to the modern world. Bellows essentially keeps alive the figurative representative traditions into the modern era. Edward Hopper is the heir to that, “ Brock said.
After the National Gallery show from June 10 to October 8, “George Bellows (1882-1925)” will travel to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Royal Academy of Arts in London.