Catalog Essay | September 17, 2020 | Lot 36
George Bellows was born in Columbus, Ohio and attended Ohio State University. In 1904 he moved to New York City to study with Robert Henri. Under Henri’s influence Bellows became the leading young member of the Ashcan School. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Bellows never studied in Europe and was trained entirely in the United States.
From 1920-1924, Bellows and his family spent their summer and fall vacations in Woodstock, New York. The Woodstock Artists association was formed in 1919, and the area was increasingly drawing in artists including Robert Henri, Leon Kroll and Andrew Dasburg. In Woodstock, Bellows drew inspiration from the mountains, villages and barns that surrounded him.
This work Farmer and Chickens was painted in October of 1922 at Bellows’ home in Woodstock. The farmer at the lower right corner of the scene is hunched over looking at his chickens, tired from a life of hard work on the farm. The quick brush strokes and treatment of the landscape lean towards emerging abstract art styles.
Elizabeth Kennedy, Curator of “Leaving the Country: George Bellows at Woodstock,” a 2003-2004 exhibition at the Terra Museum of American Art stated “It was in Woodstock where Bellows found the perfect combination of nature and neighborhood that imbued his work with the maturity and vision that characterized those final five years.”
In 1911, the Metropolitan Museum acquired his painting Up the Hudson, making him one of the youngest artists in the collection at the time— Bellows was twenty-nine. Bellows’ tragic and sudden death from a ruptured appendix when he was only forty-two years old cut short an impressive career. In 1925, shortly after his death, the Met organized a memorial retrospective of his work and in 2013 hosted a blockbuster retrospective exhibition with over 100 works organized by the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. in association with The Met and the Royal Academy of Arts in London.