In honor of the Columbus Bicentennial, each month throughout 2012 we will highlight a local Columbus artist from the Museum’s collection. Look for “12 for 12″ blog posts each month, plus follow us on Facebook and Twitter for interesting tidbits about the artists’ life and work. To kick things off we’re starting with George Bellows.
George Wesley Bellows (1882 – 1925) was arguably the most celebrated American painter of his generation. Born in Columbus, Ohio, he attended The Ohio State University, where he played on the varsity baseball and basketball teams. Bellows left Columbus in 1904 to study art in New York City, quickly becoming associated with the charismatic artist Robert Henri and his artistic group later characterized by the term Ashcan School. Bellows’ work exemplified Henri’s call to depict the experience of the everyday, often gritty working-class, world around him. “It seems to me,” he wrote, “that an artist must be a spectator of life: a reverential, enthusiastic, emotional spectator, and then the great dramas of human nature will surge through his mind.” The artist’s facile brushwork perfectly conveyed the teeming vitality and heady brashness of human and natural drama.
By his mid-twenties, Bellows had risen from art student to art luminary, winning nearly every major award in the art world, and becoming a member of the prestigious National Academy at the young age of twenty-seven. His dazzling career, however, was brief; he died tragically at the age of forty-three from a ruptured appendix. In his short professional life, Bellows created an enormous body of work that includes more than seven hundred paintings, almost two hundred editions of lithographs, and an equal number of drawings. He is celebrated equally for his seascapes, portraits, city snow scenes, and socially engaged genre, as he is for his depictions of working-class urban life. The Columbus Museum of Art has one of the largest and most important collections of works by Bellows in the world.