press release

An insightful exhibition of 60 lithographs by George Wesley Bellows (1882-1925), drawn from the San Diego Museum of Art's permanent collection, will be shown in An American Pulse: The Lithographs of George Wesley Bellows, to open on January 30, 1999.

The exhibition marks the first public viewing of this extraordinary collection of lithographs, which were acquired by the museum through purchases and donations over the past several years and which range in date from 1916 to 1924.

"This exhibition of Bellows' work will reveal a dramatic and passionate sensibility, compelling persistence and extraordinary dedication," said Steven L. Brezzo, director of the San Diego Museum of Art. "These lithographs, unprecedented in their richness and clarity, are an exemplary addition to the museum's permanent collection."

The museum's holdings of Bellows prints now numbers 62, and represents approximately one-third of his work in this medium. Bellows' artistic vision focused on the familiar aspects of everyday life, as evidenced by the numerous genre scenes and family portraits he produced. The vision Bellows brought to lithography was expansive enough to range from scenes of the life of Christ to images depicting the atrocities of World War I. The museum's collection is representative of this diversity, and the exhibition will include examples of nearly all subjects Bellows addressed in this medium.

"No American artist surpassed the brilliant and innovative achievements that George Bellows brought to the medium of lithography," said D. Scott Atkinson, the museum's curator of American art. "He was central in its American transition from a tool of the commercial world to a fine art medium. I see this exhibition as the first of many that will reveal the depth and complexity of the museum's American print collection."

Also represented in the exhibition are examples of all the various boxing images Bellows produced in lithographs. Among these is A Stag at Sharkey's, the most popular of Bellows' images and one of the most important American prints of the 20th century.

Between 1916 and 1924, Bellows produced nearly 200 lithographs, an impressive number considering the technical demands of the medium. As was common practice, Bellows worked directly with professional lithographers, first with George C. Miller, and then with Bolton Brown, the best practicing lithographers in the United States at the time. During the eight years Bellows concentrated on lithography, he challenged the medium and helped in its transition from a medium considered suitable only for commercial purposes to an art form worthy of aesthetic recognition.

Scholars have hailed Bellows' lithographs as the perfect complement to his production as a painter. He was an innovative, productive lithographer, who experimented with the medium extensively. The results included lithographs that took full advantage of the drama and immediacy made possible by the medium.

George Wesley Bellows was born in Columbus, Ohio, the son of a successful building contractor. He studied at Ohio State University and seriously considered a career as a professional baseball player. By 1904, he had moved to New York to study art and quickly found himself in the company of prominent New York artists who admired and encouraged his development. He was influential among his fellow artists, and his dynamic painting style soon earned him the admiration of critics and public alike. Bellows traveled with his family to most parts of the United States, including California, but preferred New England and the village of Woodstock in upstate New York. He died prematurely in 1925 as a result of a ruptured appendix.


An American Pulse: The Lithographs of George Wesley Bellows