Monday, July 14, 2014

The Ashcan School (pt. 2)

George Bellows was not a member of the Ashcan School, but his paintings bore similarity to those of John French Sloan and the movement of American Realism.  A backlash against the wild freedoms of the European Cubists and Expressionists, Bellows' art harkens back to the late Victorian tenants of traditional Realism, while combining these with looser restrictions and greater freedoms toward personal style and subject matter.  The artist concentrated most on the subject he loved most: sports.  Bellows especially liked to paint boxing matches because he spent most of his time at the athletic club.
This painting, titled Stag at Sharkey's, he produced in 1909.  Here the artist has reverted to a clearly delineated subject matter (a boxing match) which bears its own manifest cultural significance, but Bellows has added his own technical approach to style in the execution of the painting.  To recreate the violent action of the ring he has applied the paint to the canvas using slashing brushstrokes.  With strong diagonal lines and blurred contours he has captured this swift action and the powerful determination of the opponents.  The faces of the crowd of course blur back into the dark; all attention is drawn to the center of the action in the center of the work.  But even amid his Realist style, Bellows can't avoid painting blurred figures, almost Impressionistically, to convey the sense of movement and the physicality and muscular force of such a scene.  Though conservative in subject matter, the painting employs unconventional methods of artistic technique.  There is a blend of innovation and traditionalism, then—and that perfectly characterizes the art of the Ashcan School.

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