Markham Hill Moment of History                                                       2019-10-28

Passing of George Bellows

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George Bellows

George Bellows (1882–1925) was an American painter and lithographer who played a vital role in the diverse and burgeoning ideas about contemporary art in the turn of the century. His work was cut short by his untimely death in 1925. In a remarkably short period, Bellows became the leading artist of his generation.  Joy Pratt Markham studied under George Bellows at the Art Institute of Chicago. Five of his many paintings are in the permanent collection at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

Following is the article Joy Pratt Markham wrote about George Bellows when she was 31 years old. It was printed on the front page of the Fayetteville Daily Democrat on February 2, 1925.

Deplores Passing of Great Artist   by Joy Pratt Markham

The Studio, by George Bellows

With the death of George Bellows, artist, of New York City, America has lost one of her greatest men. He was the acme of her civilization, large, strong, fine in body, mind and soul. He had the simplicity and sincerity that only a big mind can have. Dying, of an operation for appendicitis, January eight of last week, at the age of 42, his work was not half finished, it was going on with increasing power and vigor. He was thinking and growing as a youth grows for his youth had not died in him. Those who knew him thought of him as a boy. It was a joy to see him live and to know that there was someone living so completely and fully as he. It is impossible to think such a force could be stopped, and it cannot be. His influence upon art and upon the lives of all who knew him has been profound, and it will not be lost.

Mr. Bellows was a man much like Lincoln. In another field of work, he expressed the same simple greatness that Lincoln expressed. He had no affectations. He was wholly himself and American. He had never been abroad. After his junior year in Ohio State University, he went to learn to draw as well as Gibson. But he fell under the instruction of Robert Henri, and since, except for the association with Maratta and J. Hambidge, has claimed no other teacher. Mr. Bellows’ pictures are now owned by the leading galleries of America and have been exhibited in foreign countries. They are valued at thousands of dollars.

The Stag at Sharkeys, by George Bellows
George Bellows antiwar cartoon. (Click to enlarge.)

In an exhibition of his pictures now at the Art Institute of Chicago there is a picture of the Crucifixion, and one of the Dempsey-Firpo fight. A few years ago, he painted “The Execution of Edith Cavell,” and other dramatic episodes of the war. He was fond of painting his two little daughters and his lovely wife and has included his own portrait in the groups with them. The picture, “My Mother” is one of his latest works, and also the one of his aunt and mother with his little girl sitting between them, called “Eleanor, Jean and Anna.” He loved active life out of doors, and painted groups of ruddy, happy people skating or walking in the park of New York. He also loved more quiet scenes, for among his pictures are one of hillsides with cattle grazing, a landscape with a horse sniffing the breeze, and one of a New England back yard with chickens about it.

Self-portrait, by George Bellows

Mr. Bellows was a football man in college. He was six feet two inches tall and had a powerful physique which enabled him to stand at his canvases sometimes for twelve or twenty-four hours at a time, until he had either failed or succeeded in accomplishing the thing which he had in mind to accomplish. His appearance had nothing in common with the popular conception of the artist. One would have taken him for a baseball player, perhaps, of a great outdoors man and naturalist. He was not the kind of artist over whom women make a great to do, for he would never have allowed himself to be so manipulated, but he was loved and respected by men and women. The man who perhaps loved him most dearly, and whom he loved most dearly, was Robert Henri his teacher.

Had Mr. Bellows not turned to painting, he would have become great in some other way – he would have been a great scientist, a great athlete, a great statesman, a great preacher. His greatness was quite apart from the medium in which he expressed it.  He was a great man. Those who knew him grieve for this loss and for the loss of him to America and the world.

Sketch of Nude, by George Bellows​, given to
Joy Pratt Markham, now owned by Pratt descendants