George Bellows: first big UK show for an American great
Royal Academy retrospective celebrates work of the 'most fiercely talented' of the Ashcan artists
What you need to know
An exhibition of the work of gritty American realist painter George Bellows has opened at the Royal Academy. George Bellows: Modern American Life is the first retrospective of Bellows's work to be held in the UK.
Bellows rose to prominence in the early decades of the 20th century, and when he died aged 42, he was considered one of the greatest artists in America. He was a member of the 'Ashcan School', which captured the gritty urban landscape of New York in scenes of docks, tenements and illegal boxing matches.
This exhibition presents 71 artworks, including paintings, drawings and lithographs, covering Bellows’s career between 1905 and 1925. Until 19 June.
What the critics like
There are many reasons to visit the Royal Academy's "beautifully chosen" exhibition of Bellows, says Richard Dorment in the Daily Telegraph. But you only need one – that quintessential depiction of boxers in the ring, Stag at Sharkey's (pictured above). It’s “is one of the most startlingly original pictures in American art".
Bellows's most striking portraits bring a touch of Velazquez and Manet's swashbuckling dash to his impoverished subjects, says Rachel Campbell-Johnston in The Times. And to scenes of smoke-spewing chimneys and downbeat workers of the Manhattan streets, Bellows brings "a rawly experimental, gutsy panache".
Bellows was "clearly the most fiercely talented" of the Ashcan artists, says Fisun Guner on Arts Desk. His "arresting" and exuberant images of urchins and boxers pack a "considerable punch".
What they don’t like
Linger with the early works, the fights and desolate dockside scenes, says Campbell-Johnson in the Times. Later, Bellows's career lost its impetus and "the bold, brash vitality of a painter who wouldn’t pull his punches dwindles whimsically away". ·