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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

George Bellows’ Artworks

George Bellows' Artworks

“Dempsey and Firpo” by George Bellows

“Dempsey and Firpo” by George Bellows depicts the boxing match between Jack Dempsey and Luis Firpo on September 14, 1923. The painting depicts the dramatic moment when Firpo knocked Dempsey out of the ring, even though Dempsey was the eventual winner that night.

Painted in the style of the Ashcan School movement, it has become Bellows’ most famous painting. Bellows gave himself a cameo as the balding man at the extreme left of the picture.

The fight was a historic boxing fight. It was the first time that a Latin American fighter challenged for the World Heavyweight title, and it was one of the defining matches of Dempsey’s career. Dempsey had been champion since 1919, and Firpo was one of the top heavyweights of the world. Eighty thousand fans paid to see the fight live at the Polo Grounds in New York City.

In the aftermath, Dempsey and Firpo both became icons. Dempsey later lost his Heavyweight title to Gene Tunney, he did military service and opened a restaurant in New York before dying in 1983. Firpo became revered in Argentina and most of Latin America, there are several streets and avenues named after him, as well as a football team in El Salvador. He died a wealthy man in 1960 in Buenos Aires.

Dempsey and Firpo

  • Title:               Dempsey and Firpo
  • As Known as Dempsey Through The Ropes
  • Artist:              George Bellows
  • Date:               1924
  • Medium:         Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:    Height: 129.5 cm (51 ″); Width: 160.6 cm (63.2 ″)
  • Museum:         Whitney Museum of American Art

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George-Bellows-River-Front-1-1915

“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 colour. The contrast between the blues and the pale bodies and the explosion of human diversity all draw 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 neighbourhoods.  Bellows developed his keen sense of light by exhibiting a stark contrast between the blue and pale colours in his art. He was also expert in creating visual texture in depicting the rough and grimy city structures and in creating an aesthetically ironic image.

Dempsey and Firpo

  • 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 ″)
  • Museum:           Columbus Museum of Art

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George Bellows' Artworks

“New York” by George Bellows

New York by George Bellows is a large painting which captures the essence of modern life in New York City in 1911. The view looks uptown toward Madison Square from the intersection of Broadway and 23rd Street, but Bellows drew on several commercial districts to create an imaginary composite.

His focus was to show the crowds and traffic to convey a sense of the city’s hectic pace. Bellows assembled all of these diverse elements of New York into one scene. As one critic commented:

“Trucks are darting through the crowd.
Men and women are hurrying across the streets,
trolleys are clanging their way in and out,
a policeman is keeping people from being run over,
you feel the rush; you hear the noise,
and you wish you were safely home.”

New York

  • Title:                  New York
  • Artist:                George Bellows
  • Date:                 1911
  • Medium:           Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:      Height: 106.7 cm (42 ″); Width: 152.4 cm (60 ″)
  • Museum:           National Gallery of Art, DC

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, which was 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 neighbourhoods. The movement has been seen as symbolic of the spirit of political rebellion of the period.

George Bellows

Reflections on George Bellows

  • How effective are these paintings in evoking the urban experience?
  • Do you agree with the critics of the time, that these depictions belong in the “Ash Can”?

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

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Photo Credit: 1) George Bellows [Public domain]

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