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Leaving for the Country: George Bellows at Woodstock


Leaving for the Country: George Bellows at Woodstock will be on view at the Georgia Museum of Art from February 21 through May 16, 2004. Often better known for his gritty urban scenes, this is the first exhibition to focus exclusively on Bellows's years in Woodstock, a period of tremendous growth and development that changed his palette and style significantly. During these years Bellows produced some of his best work, including Elinor, Jean and Anna, which has secured its place within the canon of American masterpieces. This exhibition includes more than 65 works of art, including paintings, drawings, and lithographs created by George Bellows and his contemporaries while at Woodstock, New York, between the years of 1920 and 1924.

George Bellows (1882-1925) was among the most famous artists of his generation and was celebrated for his boxing -- inspired imagery such as the famous painting A Stag at Sharkey's. This exhibition illustrates the period from 1920-1924, when Bellows spent the seasons of summer and fall in the culturally rich artists' colony of Woodstock. While living in this colony, Bellows painted bold landscapes and remarkable portraits of family and friends.

George Bellows spent several months each year with his family in Woodstock, where he was inspired by the same mountains, lakes, and fields that had drawn early American landscape painters such as Thomas Cole and Asher B. Durand. Bellows painted portraits framed by simple interiors that reveal his passion for the human form. While living and painting in the lively artistic community, Bellows was able to paint portraits of his family at the center of Woodstock's activities. The Maverick Festival and an annual bohemian theatrical romp gave Bellows the opportunity to indulge his love of costume and choreography. Bellows enjoyed life in this community and often played baseball, painted, and philosophized with members of Woodstock's community. (left: George Bellows, Portrait of Laura, 1922 , oil on panel, 40 x 32 inches)

The Woodstock artists' community experienced phenomenal growth during the time that Bellows was living there, with artists comprising 20 to 25 percent of the population during the summer. It was common for students attending the Art Students League's summer session to remain in Woodstock. The Woodstock Artists Association, formed in 1919, included members and exhibitors working in both traditional and experimental styles. Eugene Speicher, Henry Lee McFee, Andrew Dasburg, and Charles Rosen were among Bellows's close friends in Woodstock, and Robert Henri came up to teach at the Art Students League in the summer of 1921. Leon Kroll lived in the community as well and John Carroll helped Bellows build the home that he and his family lived in while in Woodstock.

The paintings, drawings,and lithographs executed by Bellows during these years are the focus of the exhibition, yet works by his Woodstock contemporaries Henry Lee McFee, Eugene Speicher, Andrew Dasburg, and Bellows's former teacher Robert Henri are also represented in this exhibition. Konrad Cramer and Henry Lee McFee brought to Woodstock connections with European trends, while lithographer and printmaker Bolton Brown - who would become the printer of some of Bellows's most outstanding boxing scenes - had a house nearby. Bellows's proximity to a community of fellow artists and their work, combined with the beauty of his environs, clearly contributed to his artistic growth and development. The period represented in this exhibition was followed immediately by Bellows's untimely death in January 1925 at the age of 42. His death was a result of surgery for a ruptured appendix. (right: Robert Henri, Isolina Maldonado, 1921, oil on canvas, 32 x 26 inches)

This exhibition is organized by the Memorial Art Gallery at the University of Rochester and is circulated by Curatorial Assistance Traveling Exhibitions, Los Angeles, California. The curators of this exhibition are Marjorie Searl, curator of American art and assistant director for curatorial affairs, Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester, and Ron Netsky, professor of art, Nazareth College, Rochester, New York.

Many of the works in this traveling exhibition are lent generously by institutions including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, The Cleveland Museum of Art, the Columbus Museum of Art, and Yale University Art Gallery.

The in-house curator is Paul Manoguerra, curator of American art.

Editor's note:

See also in RLM:

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