August 31, 2006
Director of Media Relations
AMHERST, Mass.—The Mead Art Museum at Amherst College will present “George Bellows: A Ringside Seat” from Sept. 5 through Dec. 10. In conjunction with this exhibition, the Archives and Special Collections at the Amherst College Library will host “George Bellows: A Family Festival.” These exhibitions are devoted to the early 20th-century American artist George Wesley Bellows (1882-1925). His remarkable oeuvre offers a ringside seat into his life as it represents an intrinsic synthesis between the artist, his choice of subjects and his particular vehicles for expression.
The Mead will host several events in conjunction with these exhibitions.
- Marianne Doezema, Florence Finch Abbott Director at the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, will give a talk at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 14, in Stirn Auditorium, titled “Realism and Resonance: The Urban Landscape in George Bellows’ Art.” A reception will follow at the Archives and Special Collections at the Robert Frost Library.
- At 1 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 27, in the Fairchild Gallery, Trinkett Clark, the curator of American art at the Mead, and Daria D’Arienzo, the head of archives and special collections at the Robert Frost Library, will give a talk on “George Bellows and His Circle of Friends.”
- At 1 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 10, in the Fairchild Gallery, Billy T. McBride, coach of football and women’s basketball at Amherst, will give a talk titled “Through the Ropes,” about boxing and the Bellows images.
All events are free and open to the public.
Born in Columbus, Ohio, Bellows studied with the painter Robert Henri in New York. A leading force in the New York art world, Henri encouraged his students to render their urban environment with candor and bravura, depicting both the grit and the glory of their surroundings. Whether he worked on canvas or on paper, Bellows captured the world he inhabited with honesty and integrity. His choice of unconventional subjects chronicled the changing social fabric of America and linked the artist with his contemporaries; for their straightforward portrayals of everyday life, these artists were dubbed the “Ashcan School” by some of their harsher critics.
Throughout his life Bellows rendered family and friends with great candor and sympathy; his poignant portraits reveal an intimate side to the artist that is both compassionate and humorous. Many of his most striking portraits were of his wife, Emma, and their two daughters, Anne and Jean.
Bellows found inspiration in his surroundings and depicted the verdant, pastoral countryside in various seasons and volatile climates.
Bellows was an athlete of some note, having played baseball for a semi-professional baseball team before concentrating on his artistic prowess, and recorded athletic events; boxing became an ideal theme as it allowed him to show the power and grace of the human form as he underscored the spectacle of the sport with the drama and energy that emanated from the ring.
Perhaps the most revolutionary of Bellows’ contributions was his willingness to explore the new urban environment, celebrating the commonplace in all of its grit and glory. He embraced subjects that had social punch, such as the hardscrabble life of the slum dweller, the unorthodox prayer meetings of the religious fanatic Billy Sunday, and the atrocities of the first World War indeed, the war provided compelling fodder for a potent and graphic series of paintings and lithographs produced in 1918.
Bellows’ paintings display a vibrant palette and lively, expressionistic brushwork, while his drawings and prints demonstrate his proficiency as a draftsman and printmaker. His incisive scenes of life in the urban tenement provide passionate vignettes that probe social injustices, the agonies of war and other socio-political issues.
Amherst College and the Mead Art Museum are fortunate to possess extensive holdings of work by George Bellows, including his personal papers and memorabilia which are housed in the Archives and Special Collections at the Amherst College Library. Using material from both of these rich resources, and augmented with loans from nearby museums and collections, “George Bellows: A Ringside Seat” consists of four themes that Bellows explored in his work: Sights and Sounds (the artist’s rural and urban surroundings); Through the Ropes (sporting images, particularly in the boxing ring); The Changing World (social and political issues); and The Artist’s Circle (portraits of family and friends, along with material selected by Daria D’Arienzo, head of archives and special collections at Amherst). The exhibition, publication and related events are supported by the Charles Morgan Fund and the Hall and Kate Peterson Fund.
In conjunction with the Mead’s exhibition, the Archives and Special Collections at the Amherst College Library will host a satellite exhibition titled “George Bellows: A Family Festival.” Curated by Daria D’Arienzo, head of Archives and Special Collections at Amherst, this exhibition will feature material drawn from the George Wesley Bellows Papers and The Charles H. Morgan Papers on George Wesley Bellows in the Amherst College Library. “George Bellows: A Family Festival” will present an insightful perspective into Bellows’ life. Though famous as an artist, Bellows did not create an “artistic persona,” but remained true to himself. His engaging personality is reflected in this exhibition through memorabilia from the artist’s youth, scrapbooks, family photographs, manuscript letters between Bellows and his circle of family and friends and the creative work of the Bellows daughters (especially their childhood magazines, The Enjoyer and The Storyteller). This exhibition will offer an intimate view into the life of Bellows and his immediate and extended family, including friends and colleagues, and explore their role in the evolution of the artist’s career. Together, these two exhibitions provide a remarkable opportunity to learn more about George Bellows and his inspirations.
The Mead Art Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Thursday evenings until 9 p.m. Additional information is available on the museum’s Website, or by calling the museum at 413/542-2335. The Amherst College Archives and Special Collections, located in the Robert Frost Library, are open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until noon and from 1 to 4 p.m. Admission and all events are free and open to the public.