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“River Front No. 1” by George Bellows

"River Front No. 1" by George Bellows

“River Front No. 1” by George Bellows

“River Front No. 1” by George Bellows depicts the city’s poor boys bathing at the riverfront docks on a hot day. Bellows took an ordinary urban subject and celebrated it with color.

The contrast between the blues and the pale bodies and the explosion of human diversity draws our attention.

Bellows painted many river scenes throughout his career, and he also focused on the human form in a number of his works.

His urban New York scenes depicted the chaos of working-class people and neighborhoods. 

Bellows developed his keen sense of light by exhibiting a stark contrast between the blue and pale colors in his art.

He was also an expert in creating visual texture to depict the rough and grimy city structures and create an aesthetically ironic image.

Ashcan School

The Ashcan School, also called the Ash Can School, was an artistic movement in the United States during the late 19th-early 20th century. It is best known for works portraying daily life scenes in New York, often in the city’s poorer neighborhoods.

The artists working in this style included Robert Henri, George Luks, William Glackens, John Sloan, and Everett Shinn.

The term was slowly applied to many painters beyond the original “Philadelphia Five,” including George Bellows and Edward Hopper. 

Like many art-historical terms, “Ashcan art” has sometimes been applied to so many different artists that its meaning has become diluted.

The name “Ashcan school” is a tongue-in-cheek reference to other “schools of art.” Its origin is in a complaint alleging that there were too many “pictures of ashcans.” The reference amused the artists, and the name stuck.

River Front No. 1″

  • Title:                 River Front No. 1
  • Artist:               George Bellows
  • Date:                1914
  • Medium:          Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:     Height: 115.3 cm (45.3 ″); Width: 160.3 cm (63.1 ″)
  • Category:         American Artist
  • Museum:          Columbus Museum of Art

George Bellows

George Bellows (1882 – 1925) was an American realist painter known for his bold depictions of urban life in New York City.

Bellows was part of the Ashcan School, an artistic movement in the United States during the early 20th century.

Best known for works portraying scenes of daily life in New York, often in the city’s poorer neighborhoods. The movement has been seen as symbolic of the spirit of political rebellion of the period.

George Bellows

George Bellows

George Bellows


“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.”
– George Bellows


Photo Credit: 1) George Bellows [Public domain]

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