National Gallery spends $25.5m on George Bellows' Men of the Docks – its first major American painting

Painting by the US 'master' artist will be displayed alongside works by Monet and Pissarro

Nick Clark
Friday 07 February 2014 04:00
Comments
Painting by the US 'master' artist will be displayed alongside works by Monet and Pissarro
Painting by the US 'master' artist will be displayed alongside works by Monet and Pissarro

The National Gallery has bought its first major American painting, in a deal worth $25.5m, becoming the first British collection to have work by “master” artist George Bellows.

The institution will today unveil the 1912 work Men of the Docks by the artist who was the focus of his first UK retrospective last year at the Royal Academy of Arts last year. It will be displayed alongside work by Monet and Pissarro.

National Gallery director Nicholas Penny said: “We are thrilled to have been able to purchase this painting” adding visitors “will understand him in a different way.”

Men of the Docks was bought with money from the fund established by Sir Paul Getty for the National from Randolph College in Lynchburg, Virginia.

The National Gallery previously had one work by an American artist, but called it “minor” and has kept it in storage. George Inness’s The Delaware Water Gap of 1857 was a bequest to the Tate in 1939 before it was transferred and is rarely on display.

It is the last and largest in a series of Bellows paintings of workers gathered on a New York waterfront on a winter’s day and described as an “outstanding example of the socially engaged, modern realism that was central to American art in the early 20th century”.

For the National, the deal “marked a new direction in its acquisition policy – seeking to represent paintings in the Western European tradition, rather than solely those made by artists working in Western Europe”. It started bringing US paintings to London in 2009 for a series of exhibitions including one on Bellows in 2011 but did not target them for the collection.

Bellows was born in Ohio in 1882. He was at the forefront of a group of American realist painters depicting the growing American metropolis of New York.

The National Gallery said that “by 1908, Bellows was acknowledged as the most brilliant of the young generation of painters”. He died at just 42 in 1925, perhaps hampering his wider fame. Christopher Riopelle, the gallery’s curator of post-1800 paintings called Bellows an “American master”.

Bradley Bateman, president of Randolph College said he was “ proud that an international audience will now become more aware of Randolph and our long stewardship of Men of the Docks, as this painting takes its place among the masterpieces in the National Gallery”.

The deal marks what the National dubbed a “new, transatlantic academic partnership, the first of its kind between an American college and a UK gallery”.


Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in