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“Men of the Docks” by George Bellows

George Bellows - Men of the Docks

“Men of the Docks” by George Bellows

“Men of the Docks” by George Bellows depicts a group of men, wearing overcoats, standing at a dock in Brooklyn, New York City, together with some draught horses.  A steam liner looms over them to their right and in the centre is a tugboat. The waters are iced up by winter and in the background are the skyscrapers of the lower Manhattan skyline.

The winter weather seems bleak and grey as the men look for work at the docks. The men are looking to the left, and we can only speculate about what has drawn their attention. Is it news that no work is available or a notice that the men are required for labour. In the early 20th century, day labourers in the New York docks worked depending on the availability of ships to unload, and thus when not working they often stood nearby, waiting for news that there was work. This painting is a significant example of Bellows’ treatment of the subject in which he emphasises the precariousness of the labourers’ situation.

George Bellows

George Bellows 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 that is 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.

Reflections

  • Does this painting evoke something of the urban experience in what was at the time one of the world’s fastest-growing cities?
  • What do you think the men are responding to on the right of the canvas?

Men of the Docks

  • Title:               Men of the Docks
  • Artist:             George Bellows
  • Date:              1912
  • Medium:        Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:   Height: 114.3 cm (45 in); Width: 161.3 cm (63.5 in)
  • Museum:        National Gallery, London

George Bellows

  • Name:            George Wesley Bellows
  • Born:              1882 – Columbus, Ohio USA
  • Died:              1925 (aged 42) – New York City, NY USA
  • Nationality:    American
  • Movement:    Ashcan School, American realism
  • Notable Works:

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“They put the wolf to guard the sheep.”
– Greek Proverb

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Photo Credit: 1) George Bellows [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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