Remembering the Modern American City: George Bellows at the Royal Academy of Arts

The Royal Academy of Arts in London is currently displaying the exhibition George Bellows (1882-1925): Modern American Life, the first retrospective of works by American realist painter George Bellows to be held in the UK. Featuring 39 paintings, 15 drawings and 17 lithographs (most of which have never shown in the UK), the exhibition covers Bellows’s career between 1905 and 1925 and depicts his fascination with New York’s gritty urban landscape (particularly the crowded tenement buildings of Manhattan’s Lower East Side), its technological marvels and the diversity of its inhabitants.

In 1904, before graduating from Ohio State University, Bellows left his native Columbus and moved to New York to study art with Robert Henri, one of America’s most important art teachers at the time and leader of the group later known as the Ashcan School. He never travelled abroad, but was influenced by the works of European masters from Francisco de Goya to Édouard Manet. The consequences of World War I, as seen in his series of paintings and his lithographs depicting war-torn Belgium, were inspired by reading accounts in the New York Times. In 1925, at the age of 42 and at the height of his fame, Bellows died of appendicitis. The extent of his accomplishment was recognised later that year at a memorial exhibition of his work held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

George Bellows (1882-1925): Modern American Life is on display at the Royal Academy of Arts in London until Sunday 9 June 2013.