Organized by the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester
Marjorie Searl and Ron Netsky, Curators
From 1920 to 1924, George Bellows (1882–1925) and his family spent a part of every year in Woodstock, New York, where he was inspired by the mountains, lakes, and fields surrounding the tiny village that was fast becoming a center for landscape artists. Bellows ventured out regularly to paint the local scenery, often doing sketches that he took back to New York with him in the winter to use as studies for finished paintings. Woodstock interiors appear as backdrops for well-known portraits of his family and friends. Photographs of the period show the Bellows family at the center of activities, including the annual bohemian Maverick Festival. Here he found the perfect combination of nature and neighborhood that imbued his work with the maturity and vision that characterize his final five years.
The Woodstock community of artists was experiencing phenomenal growth, reaching 20 to 25 percent of the population during the summer. Many who came to study at the Art Students League's summer session stayed permanently. The Woodstock Artists Association was formed in 1919, the year before Bellows’ first visit, and included, among its members and exhibitors, artists working in both traditional and more experimental styles. Eugene Speicher and Charles Rosen, for example, were Bellows’ closest friends in Woodstock, and Robert Henri came up to teach in the summer of 1921. Leon Kroll lived there as well, and John Carroll helped Bellows build his house.
While Bellows’ Woodstock paintings, drawings, and prints are the focus of the exhibition, works by his contemporaries are also included. Andrew Dasburg, Konrad Cramer and his wife, Florence Balhn Cramer, and Henry Lee McFee, for example, brought to Woodstock connections with European trends and the avant-garde inspiration of Alfred Stieglitz. Also living in Woodstock at that time was Bellows' friend, Bolton Brown, who printed several of the artist's best lithographs in his studio. Bellows’ proximity to his fellow artists and their work clearly contributed to the rapid evolution of his own style.
Perhaps because this period was followed immediately by his untimely death at forty-two, or because he is much better known for his sports-inspired imagery, this is the first exhibition to focus on Bellows’ years in Woodstock, a period of tremendous growth and development that changed his palette and style significantly and produced some of his best work.
NUMBER OF WORKS: 70
TOUR DATES: September 2003 - November 2004
PUBLICATION: Publication, Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, 2003