Works by George Wesley Bellows at Sotheby's
George Wesley Bellows Biography
American painter and printmaker George Wesley Bellows played a crucial role in early 20th century American art. He depicted contemporary scenes of everyday life in urban environments through an overtly Realist approach, presenting the realities of tenement life on the Lower East Side, the bristly physicality of men working on the docks, or widely attended popular sporting events. His sudden death from appendicitis at the age of forty-two tragically cut short an impressive, singular career.
Born in Columbus, Ohio in 1882, Bellows sustained parallel interests in art and sports, drawing, painting and playing baseball and basketball regularly from a young age. After declining an offer from the Indianapolis baseball team to play professionally, Bellows attended Ohio State University and later moved to New York City to study under Robert Henri and pursue a career as a painter. Within five years, Bellows gained critical and commercial success, exhibiting alongside Ashcan School painters William Glackens and John Sloan and regularly contributing illustrations to popular magazines. His paintings and prints depicting a rough, grimy New York City that was full of life and vitality have become iconic artworks of the early twentieth century. Over time, his work became increasingly politically engaged, as he openly criticized atrocities committed by Germany during World War I, or the bureaucracy and censorship of the United States government.
Bellows’s paintings sell for impressive prices: Men of the Dock sold for $25.5 million, while Polo Crowd sold at Sotheby’s for $27.5 million. Bellows’s prints and paintings occupy museums, galleries and collections across the United States, both large and small. The Boston Public Library holds a considerable selection of his prints, while many of his major paintings can be found at the Columbus Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of Art, the National Gallery, the Museum of Modern Art and many other major institutions.