George Bellows and New York 1900–1930, an exhibition devoted to works by artists inspired by New York City in the early 20th century, opens Feb. 14 at the Toledo Museum of Art.
Art history students from the University of Michigan used the Museum’s The Bridge, Blackwell’s Island (1909) by George Bellows as a point of departure to curate the show. The exhibition features that important painting along with works on paper by Bellows (1882–1925) and other American Realist artists who portrayed the changing social and architectural landscape of the city in that era.
The exhibition continues through April 21 in Gallery 18. Admission to the Museum and the exhibition is free.
An Ohio native and professional artist in New York City, Bellows painted some of the most iconic works of Realist art of the early 20th century. The Bridge, Blackwell’s Island depicts the underbelly of the newly constructed 59th Street Bridge, an engineering marvel towering above the East River and Roosevelt Island.
Bellows frequently chose subjects regarded by traditionalists as too ordinary, too ugly or otherwise unsuitable for artistic representation. His unconventional depiction of the Queensboro or 59th Street Bridge exemplifies the effects of construction and progress in New York City on the general populace and the artists within it.
The Realist artists used various methods to depict the “new” New York. The exhibition includes copies of The Masses, a radical left-wing periodical that published submissions by artists such as Bellows and John Sloan, to show the relationship between printmaking and popular media at the time. A student-produced video of silent films depicting the changing city also is part of the exhibition.
Most of the works shown are part of the Museum’s collection. Others are on loan from the University of Michigan Library. The Toledo exhibition coincides with the retrospective George Bellows exhibition organized by the National Gallery of Art and currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.