Life and Times
Bellows was born in Columbus, Ohio. As a teenager he had two main interests – sport and art. Throughout college he was a star athlete, and later in life he often turned enthusiastically to sport to provide engaging subject material.
In 1904, on completing a course at Ohio State University, Bellows moved to New York City, to study at the New York School of Art. One of his tutors at the school was Robert Henri, a leading member of a loose band of Realist painters who dubbed themselves ‘The Eight’ (or more dismissively called the ‘Ashcan school’).
Bellows' early work shows influences from Henri – the dark somber palette, energetic brushwork, and a brutally realistic observation of the city. Gritty scenes of tenement life, knock out punches in the boxing ring (Sharkey’s Athletic Club on Broadway was just across from Bellows' studio), and chaotic get-togethers of impoverished city dwellers typify this period of his paintings.
The hardship and squalor often depicted in Bellow’s word reflected the political thinking of the artist, who became a major contributor to the left-wing radical newspaper The Masses.
Bellows’ powerful and relevant work was much admired by the establishment, and in 1913 he was awarded full membership to the prestigious National Academy of Design.
1913 was also the year in which Bellows helped organize the landmark Armory Show, an exhibition of European modernist art. The bright colors, vibrant contrasts and impressionist theme undoubtedly had an influence on the future direction of American art.
Later in the 1920s, Bellows began to paint quieter subjects, in contrast to the earlier themes of urban mayhem, concentrating on intimate portraits, and restful seascapes.
Bellows died in 1925 from acute appendicitis leaving a wife and two daughters.