George Bellows and His Ohio Roots

On November 8th and 9th I had the opportunity to attend the 7th Annual Art of Concern Symposium on American Art: George Bellows Revisited at the Columbus Museum of Art. Curator Melissa Wolfe took the symposium attendees on a tour of their new exhibition, George Bellows and the American Experience which includes some supplementary material from the OHS Archives/Library.

George Bellows was born on August 19, 1882 in Columbus, Ohio. His father was an architect and a builder who designed some of Columbus’s landmark buildings, including the Ohio School for the Deaf. Bellows grew up in the prominent neighborhood of Olde Towne East in a house his father designed. He attended Central High School and then, under pressure from his father, went on to attend the Ohio State University. Bellows had a summer job drawing cartoons for the Columbus Dispatch and contributed drawings to Ohio State’s Makio yearbook. He studied under Columbus artist Silas Martin at Ohio State among other professors. However, he quickly realized he did not want to pursue an architectural degree. Though his father was not supportive initially, Bellows moved to New York City to study art.

Artist's box used later in his career by George Bellows.

Artist’s box used later in his career by George Bellows; from the collections of the Ohio Historical Society.


While in New York City, Bellows studied under fellow Ohio born artist Robert Henri. Bellows quickly became one of the most promising artists in the city known for his urban scenes, portraits, and realistic images of everyday life. Bellows became a full academician at the National Academy of Design, the youngest painter to ever do so. Revered by many, Bellows continued to push artistic limits in his critiques of life during the 1910s and 1920s. Sadly, Bellows passed away at the age of 43 of appendicitis.

Lithograph by George Bellows titled "The Charge," from the collections of the Ohio Historical Society.

Lithograph by George Bellows titled “The Charge,” from the collections of the Ohio Historical Society.


The Ohio Historical Society is fortunate to own a lithograph created by Bellows (H 52824) and the artist’s box (H 52829). The lithograph, entitled The Charge, was part of a series created by Bellows expressing his disdain for German war crimes he read about during World War I. In the lithograph, Bellows depicts a bloody battlefield scene taking place during a charge in the trenches. An artist’s box that he used later in his career was donated to OHS by one of his granddaughters.

The Society also holds several paintings by Bellows’ former teacher, Silas Martin. In the Archives/Library is a manuscript collection from the Pen and Pencil Club, of which Bellows was a member. He did not participate in many club gatherings after he moved to New York City, but did contribute pieces to their art shows.

Detail of lithograph by George Bellows titled "The Charge."  It depicts a violent image of World War I trench warfare.

Detail of lithograph by George Bellows titled “The Charge.” It depicts a violent image of World War I trench warfare.


Have you seen the exhibition yet at the Columbus Museum of Art?

What lasting impact do you think Bellows has had on Ohio art?

Emily Lang, History Curator

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