Back to News

George Bellows Lithographs from the Trang Family Collection

During his student days at Ohio State University, George Bellows wrestled with his plans for the future. Should he continue to pursue his college studies and showcase his promising talents as a baseball player on the Buckeyes varsity team or leave his native Columbus, Ohio, to become a professional artist? Even with an offer to stay in Ohio and sign a contract with the Cincinnati Reds, Bellows chose to pursue his passion for art. He dropped out of school before the end of his junior year and headed for New York City to try to equip himself to succeed in the art world. He enrolled in the New York School of Art in 1904 where he studied with renowned artist and teacher Robert Henri. From Henri, he learned to paint quickly and spontaneously and to appreciate the subject matter that surrounded him in the city. Tenement houses, urban riverside gatherings, nightclubs and teeming city streets all became fair game as subject matter for his paintings. His portrayals of the seedy world of professional boxing, especially the prize fights held at Sharkey’s Athletic Club (located across the street from his studio on Broadway), attracted widespread attention and generated critical acclaim. Bellows quickly rose up the ranks in the New York art world and by 1909, at the age of 26, he was elected to the National Academy, an astounding feat for such a young artist.

While Bellows was very comfortable with a paintbrush in his hand, by 1916 he expanded his repertoire to include lithography. His command of the medium grew rapidly, and he began to produce a large quantity of prints, often on the subjects he favored in paintings, including urban life and portraits, particularly of his friends and family. By the time of his tragically early death at the age of 42, Bellows had produced more than 170 lithographs, and he was considered among the greatest American practitioners of the medium. His work as a lithographer is the focus of an exhibition that will be held from August 10 through November 3, 2019.

The works are a portion of an extensive collection that has been assembled by Thomas Trang, who is a longtime resident of Columbus, Ohio. A passionate and prodigious collector, Trang has specialized in works by Columbus artists, including Alice Schille, James Roy Hopkins, Elijah Pierce and Emerson Burkhardt, in addition to Bellows. The prints in this exhibition illustrate the wide range of subject matter that inspired Bellows and demonstrate his mastery of lithography. A special feature of the exhibition will be to showcase numerous photographs, letters and other items associated with the artist, including college yearbooks that were illustrated by Bellows, all contributing to a fresh and personal look at one of America’s most treasured artists.

An opening reception for this exhibit is planned on September 15, 2019, from 2 to 4 p.m. with a presentation by collector Thomas Trang.
Relevant research areas: North America, 20th Century, Lithography

Leave a Reply