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George Bellows’s Body

Dr John Fagg Director of American and Canadian Studies Center, University of Birmingham

George Bellows was a big, tall man. He was ungainly and awkward in social settings and slightly out of place in the art world, but graceful and athletic on the basketball court and baseball diamond. This paper considers Nude, Miss Bentham, 1906, in relation to Bellows’s body. It shows the way that the painting contains traces of the encounter between the very different bodies of the artist and his subject, and of Bellows’s sense of himself. It then looks more broadly at photographs, drawings and paintings of Bellows to explore the way that his bodily experiences shaped the art he made in the early stages of his career. This relationship, between lived experience and representation, was emphasised by Bellows’s friend Emma Goldman who in 1911 urged painters to celebrate the body as it is ‘the nearest thing to us in all the world.’

 

Image: George Bellows, The Makio, 1904, page 266, Photograph courtesy of The Ohio State University Archives.