George Bellows: Selections from the Permanent Collection
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This object is a member of the following groups (click any group name to view all objects in that group):Periods and Styles: The Ashcan School & Urban Realism
Themes: MLC Portfolio: American Identity
George Bellows once expressed his distaste for fashionable high-society portraiture: "Did you ever notice how like a society portrait painter is the undertaker. He too tries to get a good likeness."<sup>1 </sup> Bellows and his colleagues rejected the beautiful yet lifeless look of the prevailing high-style portraiture for one that emphasized the inner life of the subject. Although he received formal portrait commissions, Bellows was most successful when painting subjects from his personal experience. As a result most of his portraits are of friends and family members. One of many works documenting stages in the life of his eldest daughter, <i>Anne in Purple Wrap</i> is an example of the artist's ability to go beyond likeness and suggest the sitter's inner character.
The vibrant color and vigorous brushstroke, which so effectively capture the youthful spirit of this ten-year-old girl, reflect the impact that the 1913 Armory Show had on Bellows's work. Although he remained a realist and never distanced himself from the actual appearance of the sitter, exposure to the European avant-garde encouraged him to experiment with bold color and line and their power to convey emotion. Here the brilliant purples and greens, combined with sweeping lines and animated brushstrokes, give the portrait great psychological and aesthetic power.
In addition to borrowing from modern art, Bellows also looked to past traditions for inspiration. He wrote to his former art professor at Ohio State University: “Having got what I can out of the modernist movement for fresh, spontaneous pure color, I am now turning my attention to the 'Secrets of the Old Masters.'"<sup>2</sup> While the intimacy of this portrait is reminiscent of Bellows's early images of street urchins, the rich, jewel-like color, deep atmospheric space, and sculptural modeling are typical of his 1920s portraits and reveal his admiration for Old Master techniques. In drawing from art history, Bellows endows the picture of Anne with a formal grandeur that stands in strong contrast to the informality of his earlier portraits.
Another source of inspiration for Bellows's new portrait style was the American realist Thomas Eakins. After seeing the artist's 1917 memorial exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bellows wrote to Robert Henri declaring Eakins to be "one of the best of all the world's masters. The greatest one man show I've ever seen and some of the very greatest pictures."<sup>3</sup> Bellows admired the artist's direct and psychologically penetrating portraits. As with Eakins, Bellows's personal involvement with his sitters allowed for candid, insightful portraits that reflect his relationship with the subject.
The dim lighting of <i>Anne in Purple Wrap</i>, which softens the atmosphere and envelops the figure of Anne, creates a tender intimacy suggesting the bond between father and daughter. While her white dress may signify childlike purity and innocence, Anne's jewelry and wrap connote an emerging femininity and sophistication.4 The carved Victorian armchair introduces a note of nostalgia, alluding to Bellows's awareness of the passage of time and Anne's approaching adolescence. The overly large chair seems to push her toward the picture plane as if to present her to the outside world, yet at the same time its curved frame protectively embraces her.
This armchair was a favorite prop of the artist and appears in several other portraits of this period: <i><a href="http://artgallery.yale.edu/collections/objects/katherine-rosen">Katherine Rosen</i> (1921, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut) and <i><a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:George_Bellows_-_Portrait_of_My_Mother_No._1_(1920).jpg">Portrait of My Mother</a></i> (1921, Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio). Each of these paintings represents a woman at a different stage of life. Depicted in Victorian settings and, in the case of Katherine Rosen, historical costume, these subjects transcend their individual personalities to become "types" or symbols of larger themes. As art historian Jane Myers has noted, "Bellows was gradually coming to the belief that profound artistic achievement involved synthesizing the ordinary aspects of the sitter with the great themes of human existence.”<sup>5</sup> This combination of individual character and universal archetype is typical of Bellows's later portraits. In <i>Anne in Purple Wrap</i> Bellows not only speaks of his relationship with his daughter and her growing maturity, but he also explores the larger themes of age, the passage of time, and the cycle of life.
Allison Kemmerer, <i>Addison Gallery of American Art: 65 Years, A Selective Catalogue</i> (Andover, Massachusetts: Addison Gallery of American Art, 1996), pp. 325
1. George Bellows to Joseph Taylor, 15 January 1914, Bellows Papers, Box I, Folder 12, Special Collections Department, Amherst College Library, Massachusetts.
2. Quoted in Charles Morgan, <i>George Bellows: Painter of America</i> (New York: Reynal & Company, 1965), p. 174.
3. George Bellows to Robert Henri, 16 November 1917, Charles Morgan Papers, Box V, Folder 4, Special Collections Department, Amherst College Library.
4. Jane Myers, "Bellows and Portraiture” in Michael Quick et al., <i>The Paintings of George Bellows</i> (New York: Harry N. Abrams. 1992), p. 219.
5. Ibid., p. 197.
This object was included in the following exhibitions:American Art: American Art from the Days of the Colonists to Now, The Dallas Art Association, 11/16/1922 - 11/30/1922
The Child Through Four Centuries, Wildenstein and Co., Inc., 2/28/1945 - 3/28/1945
George Bellows: Paintings, Prints and Drawings, The Art Institute of Chicago, 1/31/1946 - 3/10/1946
Behold the Child, The Baltimore Museum of Art, 11/7/1950 - 12/3/1950
Scope in Collecting [25th Anniversary Exhibition], Addison Gallery of American Art, 10/19/1956 - 12/24/1956
A Retrospective Exhibition of the Work of George Bellows, National Gallery of Art, 1/19/1957 - 4/21/1957
Portraiture: The 19th and 20th Centuries, Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute Museum of Art, 3/31/1957 - 11/15/1957
Paintings, Drawings, Prints and Sculpture from American College and University C, The William Hayes Ackland Memorial Art Center, UNC-Chapel Hill, 9/20/1958 - 10/20/1958
Portraits of Children 1860 to 1960, Portraits, Inc., 4/19/1960 - 5/9/1960
From the Archives of American Art: The Role of the Macbeth Gallery, American Federation of Arts, 10/8/1962 - 5/31/1963
Masterpieces from American Museums, The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, 1/15/1967 - 2/19/1967
Portraits of Yesterday and Today, Portraits, Inc., 4/24/1968 - 5/21/1968
The Works, Addison Gallery of American Art, 11/7/1969 - 2/22/1970
Andover Garden Club Exhibition, Addison Gallery of American Art, 4/10/1980 - 4/13/1980
The Split-Up: The Beginning of a New Art in America, Addison Gallery of American Art, 3/13/1981 - 4/12/1981
Masterworks from the Collection: 50th Anniversary Exhibition, Addison Gallery of American Art, 5/9/1981 - 6/14/1981
Boys and Girls, Men and Women, Addison Gallery of American Art, 4/12/1990 - 6/10/1990
George Bellows: Selections from the Permanent Collection, Addison Gallery of American Art, 3/15/1994 - 4/18/1994
Faces of the Addison: Portraits from the Collection, Addison Gallery of American Art, 4/23/1994 - 7/31/1994
Masterworks from the Permanent Collection, Addison Gallery of American Art, 9/5/1995 - 12/17/1995
Addison Gallery of American Art: 65 Years, Addison Gallery of American Art, 4/13/1996 - 7/31/1996
Sculpture in Context, Addison Gallery of American Art, 4/17/1999 - 7/31/1999
Foundations: Building the Addison Collection, Addison Gallery of American Art, 1/12/2001 - 4/1/2001
Identity and Intention: Two Centuries of American Portraiture, Addison Gallery of American Art, 9/4/2001 - 12/30/2001
Eye on the Collection: Copley to Hopper, Addison Gallery of American Art, 12/21/2004 - 6/12/2005
Eye on the Collection: West to Hopper, Addison Gallery of American Art, 6/17/2005 - 10/16/2005
Child's Play: Children from the Addison Collection, Addison Gallery of American Art, 10/29/2005 - 12/31/2005
75 Years of Giving, Addison Gallery of American Art, 4/11/2006 - 7/31/2006
Eye on the Collection: Views and Viewpoints, Addison Gallery of American Art, 1/19/2008 - 3/23/2008
Inside, Outside, Upstairs, Downstairs: The Addison Anew, Addison Gallery of American Art, 9/7/2010 - 3/27/2011
Muse [Phillips Academy Art 300], Addison Gallery of American Art, 3/8/2011 - 3/27/2011
Eye on the Collection, Addison Gallery of American Art, 1/19/2013 - 3/10/2013
Eye on the Collection: Artful Poses, Addison Gallery of American Art, 2/1/2014 - 3/30/2014
In Tandem: Inspirations and Collaborations, Addison Gallery of American Art, 9/12/2015 - 1/3/2016
One Thing Leads to Another…Selections from the Collection , Addison Gallery of American Art, 1/30/2016 - 3/20/2016
Eye on the Collection, Addison Gallery of American Art, 9/1/2017 - 7/31/2018
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