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George Bellows: An Artist in Action [Hardcover]

Mary Sayre Haverstock
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

1 May 2007
A prolific and progressive painter known for his dynamic representations of American life, George Wesley Bellows (1882-1925) worked for a time as a semi-professional baseball player after leaving his native Columbus, Ohio, to study at the New York School of Art under Robert Henri. A leading member of the Ashcan school of artists (see opposite), Bellows was a master of realism, noted for his vivid brush strokes and his canvases full of motion. Widely celebrated for his technical brilliance, at the age of twenty-seven he became one of the youngest artists ever to be elected to the National Academy of Design. This beautifully produced book includes Bellows's signature paintings of urban life, a selection of portraits, his lesser-known landscapes and his brilliant portrayals of prizefighters and other athletes in action. The images are accompanied by a lively text that offers new insights into the life and times of this important artist.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Merrell Publishers Ltd (1 May 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1858943930
  • ISBN-13: 978-1858943930
  • Product Dimensions: 28.6 x 24.5 x 2.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,474,035 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Mary Sayre Haverstock, former Director of the Ohio Artists Project, is an affiliate scholar at Oberlin College, Ohio. Her publications include Artists in Ohio, 1787-1900 (2000)

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3.0 out of 5 stars good overall 17 April 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
seems to be lacking in pictures unless Bellows just didnt paint that much..whats there is good quality.
his most famous work is not in the book ( both members of this club)
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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bellows may be the American Goya 21 Oct 2007
By C. B Collins Jr. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book was written and published in collaboration with an exhibition of Goerge Bellow's work in a mueum exhibition. It is beautifully presented with many of Bellow's paintings reproduced in color along with many of his drawings and lithographic prints.

There were numerous strategically placed quotations from Bellows that were insightful and resonated with the various sections into which the book was divided. The introduction begins with "I am always amused with people who talke about lack of subjects for painting. The great difficulty is that you can ot stop to sort them out enough. Wherever you go, they are waiting for you...It seems to me 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."

Mary Sayre Haverstock, the author, covers Bellows from his youth as a second child to elderly parents, his elder sister a grown woman when he is born, to his school days as an athlete who was accomplished in baseball and basketball. Bellows goes to New York City after completion of college in Ohio, and begins study under Robert Henri. Here, he and others form the Ashcan School of NYC painters. He becomes friends and assocaites with artists now recognized for their tremendous contribution to American art, such as Sloan, Marsh, Luks, Henri, as well as writer Eugene O'Neill. Robert Henri would appear to be the strongest influence on the work of Bellows, in his classroom instruction and in his personal relationship with Bellows. His confidence, personal philosophy, artistic philosophy, and technique grows in NYC as reflected in this quote: "My advice is to paint just as you have the confidence to, and keep your ideals aloof to criticize your painting with. Watch all good art, and accept none as standard for yourself. Think with all the world, and work alone."

Bellow's early works in New York City are astounding and lead to the great paintings of boxers and World War 1 atrocities. As you look at his work, Bellow's ability to concedntrate the eye of the viewer into specific focal points through high contrast of dark and light as well as unexpected and sometimes off setting composition is remarkable. 'River rats' from 1906 is an outstanding early work demonstrating incredible dexterity, mastery of the use of darks and lights (lessons from the works of Hals, Rembrandt, Goya, Valesquez), and energetic layers of brushstrokes. 'Club Night', a scene of ugly pug faced boxers emerging from darkness, reminds me of the powerful anti-war works of the later Goya. In fact, the influence of Goya is evident in Bellow's style of composition and even in his subject matter. His refined portraits are serene and beautiful and classy yet his scenes of the brutalitya and force of a man to man struggle are full of dark energy and drama. Compare the faces in 'Club Night' to the dark final paintings of Goya. The great drawing, 'Tin Can Battle, San Juan HIll, New York' shows his superb ability to capture the male body in motion, but more than just the motion of strolling, it is rather the motion of extreme physical effort. Look at the wide stances taken by the Black youths throwing tin cans, almost beyond belief how the male figure is stretched to such extremes in athletic and combative struggles. Bellows won an early award for 'Forty-Two Kids' which is a theme he returns to later with more complex compositions, such as 'Riverfront No. 1'. However, here he shows early his sympthay for the urban poor, the unemployed male masses, the resiliency of youth even in a world of deterministic class structures.

Bellow's scenes of nature are raw, powerful, beautiful but not romantic. 'North Rive', and 'Floating Ice' are examples of this power. Bellows did not romanticize snow. In fact his figures struggle in deep and slushy snow in many of his works, such as 'Easter Snow'. However, like black, white has the ability to focus the eye of the viewer which Bellows seems to see as the goal.

George Bellow's city scenes are favorites of mine.His ability to define essential form and shape with high contrasted blacks and lights is masterful. In harsh light, shadow becomes even darker when the pupil contracts. Bellows captures this, allows it to become the central armature of the paining. In 'Noon' the subway tracks frame the distance looking down a long street, awash with smoke and hard white sunlight.

'Stag at Sharkey's' is one of the greatest American paintings and is reproduced here on the cover in detail and inside in full reproduction of the complete work. The lengthening of the male form in action will always be seen as Bellow's triumpant observation of human movement. Titian, Rubens, Rembrandt, Goya and others never pushed the male figure to the anatomical and athletic extremes of Bellows.

The book covers the many exhibitions in which Bellows participated, organized, and hung. His awards were numerous even though his work was not without controversy. He loved the public and yet would state 'There is a strange disease in people's minds which makes them imagine tehmselves as arbiters of beauty,and creates a constant and foolish demand that pictures be all 'pretty'. As if Shakespeare had alsways gone around writing love sonnets.' Bellows was familiar with the works of Riis that depicted the urban poor in NYC. He was a supporter of socialist thought and such persons as Emma Goldman. He painted the evangelist Billy Sunday to expose the travesty of these dramatic emotional revivals. Bellows says "Ilike to paint Billy Sunday, not becuase I like him, but because I want to show the world what I do think of him...He is death to the imagination, to spiritualiyt, to art...His whole purpsoe is to force authority against beauty. He is against freedom, he wants a religious autocracy, he is such a reactionary that he makes me an anarchist."

Whether the scene is the urban poor or urban rich or a fist fight or a circus act, Bellows used light and dark as a central organizing factor in his work to superb effects.

Bellows contributed to the World War I efforts with drawnings and prints of atrocities. He becomes more philosophical as he ages and gains experience. He says 'Time is needed to estimate any work of art.' His last paintings are superb, with 'Dempsey and Firpo' a paragon of the the male to male struggle. It is so sad that we lost Bellows at age forty-two to appendicitis complications.

This is an excellent product for any art lover.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Art libraries will find this indispensable. 9 Jan 2008
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Georgeb Wesley Bellows painted American life in action, from polo matches to kids playing, and evolved a realistic perspective in his works which resulted in vivid portraits of American life at the turn of the century. His most important works are gathered under one cover, along with a biography and photos of family and friends, to create a well-rounded survey of not only his works - which receive full-color representation - but his influences and lasting achievements. Art libraries will find this indispensable.

Diane C. Donovan
California Bookwatch
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Near perfect! 4 Feb 2010
By R. J. Vojir - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
So I'll be honest. I went into this book somewhat biased already as an admirer of Bellows works that I'd seen ...and additionally because we were in the same fraternity at Ohio State (just a decade or nine removed ;)

The book is just near perfect. The book is the perfect size at 160 pages, not too short, nor too long to keep the interest. The book includes not only his paintings; but also lithographs of his sketches, and photographs of him through the years. The accompanying text is easy to read, very informative, historically detailed, and includes many insightful Bellows quotes. One leaves the book with a new found education of life in the early 1900s and wondering what Bellows more Bellows might have produced if not for his early death.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a find! 22 May 2010
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book is easy and fun to read. I feel I found two great artists in one book: a great painter George Bellows and a great writer Mary Sayre Haverstock.
The book starts with GB's early years and the difficult decision to become an artist, rather than a burocrat. Then every year is illustrated and described. It is almost as if the reader lives with the family for a few years. Then his death as abrupt as it was, also ends to book very quickly.
It was a pleasure to read it. Thanks to all.
4.0 out of 5 stars excellent book 3 Feb 2013
By jack kalmus - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
reproductions excellent and plentiful, text at minimal. arrived in excellent condition;
just took a little too long, but overall worked out well. thank you
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