The Fuller Building, 41 East 57th Street, 9th Floor New York City, NY 10022 , United States Call Seller 212.535.8810

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Grammy Ames House, Matinicus Island, ME

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  • Description
    Oil on panel, 18 x 22 in.
    Inscribed (by the artist’s wife, at lower left): Geo Bellows / ESB; (on the back): GRAMMY AMES’ HOUSE / Mrs GEO BELLOWS / 146 E 19st / NY Painted in September 1916

    RECORDED: George Bellows, Record Book B, p. 81 // [Emma S. Bellows, comp.], The Paintings of George Bellows (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1929), no. 62 illus. // “George Wesley Bellows––Painter and Graver, 1882–1925” Index of Twentieth Century Artists 1 (March 1934), p. 89

    EXHIBITED: George E. Gage Gallery, Cleveland, Ohio, 1918 // Milch Galleries, New York, 1918 // Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, Buffalo, New York, September 11–October 5, 1919, Paintings by George Bellows, no. 13, as “Grammy Ames’ Place” // Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, November 1–December 16, 1919, Paintings by George Bellows, no. 13, as “Grammy Ames’ Place” // Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, New York, December 1919, Exhibition of Oil Paintings by George Bellows, N.A. and Mural Paintings and Drawings by Violet Oakley, no. 13, as “Grammy Ames’ Place” // Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1919 // Carson Pirie Scott, Chicago, Illinois, 1922 // The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, October 12–November 22, 1925, Memorial Exhibition of the Work of George Bellows, pp. 26, 61 no. 23 illus. // H. V. Allison & Co., New York, 1942, Paintings by George Bellows // H. V. Allison & Co., New York, 1944, Paintings by George Bellows // National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., January 19–February 24, 1957, George Bellows: A Retrospective Exhibition, pp. 18 no. 28, 62 illus. // Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York, October 27–November 27, 1976, The American Experience, no. 68

    EX COLL: the artist; to his estate, 1925; to his wife, Emma S. Bellows, 1925; to Mr. and Mrs. Joseph John Kerrigan, Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York, 1925; to Esther Slater Kerrigan, Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York; to sale, Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, January 8–10, 1942, lot 55; to [H. V. Allison & Co., New York], 1942; to Gary Cooper, Los Angeles, California, 1944; to Dr. and Mrs. John Converse, New York; to [Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York, by 1976]; to private collection, Ohio, 1976; by descent in the family, 2000 until the present

    One of America’s leading realists of the early twentieth century, George Bellows created a body of work––ranging from images of tenements, circuses, construction sites, dock workers, and prizefighters to portraits, landscapes, and seascapes––that reflected his desire to “paint my life” (G. Bellows, “The Relation of Painting to Architecture,” American Architect 118 [December 29, 1920], p. 848). Talented, hard-working, and with an independent streak (he has aptly been described as a “lone wolf” who combined common sense with an inquisitive outlook), Bellows moved easily between the traditional and more liberal art organizations of his day, all the while never wavering from subjects that, as Frank Crowninshield observed, “leaned towards the vigorous, the native and the authentic” (Rollo Walter Brown, “George Bellows––American,” Scribner’s 83 [June 1928], p.
    585; Frank Crowninshield, “A Master Painter of Strong Men: George Bellows and His Pictures of Boxing Combats,” The Mentor [September 1926], p. 34).

    Born in Columbus, Ohio, Bellows was the only child of George Bellows, a prosperous architect and contractor, and his wife, Anna. In 1901 he enrolled at Ohio State University where, tall and athletically inclined, he played shortstop on the school’s baseball team and, in keeping with his creative side, drew illustrations for the school’s newspaper. Three years later––encouraged by Joseph Russell Taylor, an English professor and amateur painter––Bellows left Ohio State without graduating and moved to New York. Eager to hone his technical skills, he enrolled at the New York School of Art (known today as the Parsons School of Design), studying under William Merritt Chase, who influenced his painterly style, and Robert Henri, the leader of the Ashcan School, whose belief that artists should paint their immediate environment played a key role in his choice of subjects.
    Henri also introduced Bellows to the work of European realists such as Frans Hals and Edouard Manet. During these years, Bellows earned a living by playing semiprofessional baseball, singing in a church choir, and producing illustrations for leading magazines such as Vanity Fair, whose editor, Frank Crowninshield, went on to become a staunch supporter of his work.

    In 1906 Bellows established his studio in the Lincoln Arcade at 1947 Broadway. Taking his cue from Henri, for the next seven years he depicted the streets, construction sites, waterfront, and boxing clubs of Manhattan, portraying his modern yet down-to-earth subjects with dynamic brushwork and a low-keyed palette. Lauded for his originality and straightforward reportorial style, as apparent in signature canvases such as Forty-Two Kids (1907; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.) and Stag at Sharkey’s (1909; Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio), Bellows was elected an associate member of the venerable National Academy of Design in 1909––the youngest artist to have attained that honor. In addition to the National Academy, where he was elected a full academician in 1913, Bellows exhibited regularly in the major national annuals, including those at
    the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, and the Art Institute of Chicago, and at commercial venues such as the Madison Gallery, where he had his first one-man show in 1911. Critics and the public responded favorably to his work, admiring its spontaneity and directness and its emphasis on American subjects: like the man himself, it was considered virile and robust.

    Bellows began teaching life and composition classes at the Art Students League of New York in 1910, the year he met and married Emma Louise Story, an attractive brunette from Upper Montclair who had been one of his pupils. The couple subsequently moved into a residence at 146 East 19th Street, where, his studio ensconced on the third floor, Bellows would live for the rest of his life. An open-minded artist who did not shy away from what was new and different, Bellows helped organize and participated in the ground-breaking Armory Show (International Exhibition of Modern Art) in 1913, in addition to serving as a founder of the Society of Independent Artists, established in 1916
    as a non-juried, no-prize organization meant to promote all styles of contemporary art. Bellows also made drawings and served as an unpaid art editor for The Masses (a periodical devoted to arts and politics) from 1913 to 1917. He likewise taught art classes to underprivileged children and adults at the Ferrer Center (also known as the Ferrer Modern School), an institution sponsored by liberal#2;minded individuals such as the anarchist Emma Goldman.

    During the mid-to-late 1910s, Bellows expanded his aesthetic activities. In 1916, for example, he took up lithography, going on to create a sensation with a series of prints in which he addressed the atrocities of the First World War. Like many American artists who had been exposed to the vanguard paintings exhibited at the Armory Show, he also developed a new concern with the formal elements of modern art, especially the theories espoused by the Canadian painter Jay Hambidge (1867–1924), who advocated that balance and harmony in a composition could be attained through classical geometries. In response to the cutting-edge post-impressionist and fauvist painting he had seen at the Armory Show, Bellows also turned his attention to color, familiarizing himself with the theories developed by Denman Ross, a Harvard professor who promoted the use of a set palette of related hues. Bellows was also a follower of Hardesty G. Maratta, a painter and theorist from Chicago who associated colors with musical notes, advising artists to select chromatic combinations that would produce mellifluous effects akin to musical chords––a strategy that resulted in Bellows’s decision to incorporate brighter hues into his paintings.

    After 1913, Bellows continued to paint scenes of contemporary urban life. However, he broadened his range of subjects to include warmhearted yet introspective portraits of members of his immediate family––especially Emma and his daughters, Anne and Jean––as in works such as Anne in White (1920; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh) and Elinor, Jean, and Anna (1920; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York). He also turned his attention to seascapes and landscapes inspired by his summer visits to Maine. Indeed, Bellows made his first trip to Maine in the summer of 1912, visiting Monhegan Island with Henri. Drawn to the rugged splendor of Maine’s coastline and the irrepressible power of the sea, he made seasonal visits to the “Pine Tree State” from 1913 to 1916, spending time in Monhegan (1913 and 1914), as well as Ogunquit (1915) and Camden (1916). He also made trips to Carmel, California (1917) and Middletown, Rhode Island (1918 and 1919). In 1920, at the urging of fellow artist Eugene Speicher, Bellows spent the summer in Woodstock, New York. Finding solace in the peace and quiet of the local countryside and delighting in the presence of fellow artists such as Eugene Speicher and John Carroll, he visited again in 1921. One year later Bellows designed and helped build a house in Woodstock on what is now known as Bellows Lane. Notable for their painterly handling and indelible sense of place, the landscapes Bellows painted in Maine and Woodstock occupy an important place in his oeuvre, underscoring his interest in investigating new techniques, as well as themes that anticipated the regionalist concerns that would emerge in American art during the late 1920s.

    Sadly, Bellows’s life was cut short by his premature death, from a ruptured appendix, on January 8, 1925. In his obituary in the New York Times, the writer lamented that this gifted, mid-career artist “should have died before his work was done. He had the experimental temper from the first to last.... Time can only enhance the effect of his sound craftsmanship and personal vision” (“George Bellows,” New York Times, January 8, 1925, p. 12). Bellows’s name is typically associated with gritty images of early twentieth-century New York. However, as noted by the critic Henry McBride, the artist’s landscapes were just as significant as works such as Stag at Sharkey’s and should “not ... be overlooked.... There is the same straightforward approach, the same broad statement of the facts––take them or leave them. Transcribing a pretty scene, for this artist, was not the idea. For him, something had to be doing” (Henry McBride, introduction, in George Bellows: A Retrospective Exhibition, exhib. cat. [Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 1957], p. 10). McBride’s comments bring to mind works such as Grammy Ames’ House, No. 1, which was painted on Bellow’s final trip to Maine in 1916. During that summer, Bellows was based in the town of Camden, on Penobscot Bay. However, when his daughters and their grandparents returned to New York that September, he decided to venture further afield, spending a month painting on Matinicus––a 700-acre island located about twenty-two miles from the mainland––which he had first visited with the painter Leon Kroll in 1913.

    A remote locale devoid of tourists, Matinicus––populated by independent-minded lobstering families––no doubt appealed to Bellows’s desire for unspoiled scenery and fresh motifs for his brush. (Charles A. E. Long’s Matinicus Isle: Its Story and Its People [Lewiston, Maine: Lewiston Journal Printshop, 1926], which provides a comprehensive record of the island’s history up until 1925, remains an indispensable source of information for Matinicus. Today, approximately 82 people live year-round on the island.) Indeed, during his visit, he wrote to Henri that he was doing “extra fine work,” all the while continuing his explorations with color (George Bellows to Robert Henri, October 5, 1916, Robert Henri Papers, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, as quoted in Franklin Kelly, “‘So Clean and Cold’: Bellows and the Sea,” in Michael Quick et al., The Paintings of George Bellows [Fort Worth, Texas: Amon Carter Museum, 1992], pp. 161–62). That “extra fine work” consisted of about thirty paintings, the majority of which featured intimate views of the island, as apparent in Ox Team, Wharf at Matinicus(1916; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). The same holds true for Grammy Ames’ House, No. 1, in which Bellows adheres to an unusual, tightly cropped design featuring a gabled white-clapboard house on the left and on the right, a chicken coop, a fence, and a smokehouse along with a smattering of chickens milling about the yard. (The Hirschl & Adler painting was likely a prelude to Bellows’s Grammy Ames House, No. 2, a slightly larger panel [22 x 28 in.], also executed in Matinicus, which, according to the artist’s Record Book B [p. 95], was destroyed. The Ames clan is synonymous with Matinicus, having been residents of the island since the 1820s. For genealogical information relative to the family, see Long, pp. 132–42. The “Grammy Ames” referred to in the title of Bellows’s painting may have been Adella [Philbrook] Ames [1875–1961], who was married to Frank W. Ames [1868–1955]. Erected in 1895, the house, located on the Main Road in Matinicus [known to locals as “The Ridge”], is still standing, although its appearance was substantially altered over the years as it underwent expansion and renovation. Information courtesy of Suzanne Rankin, Matincus Historical Society, and Bruce Ives, an Ames family descendent.) In the distance, the viewer’s gaze is drawn to a cluster of farmhouses and a line of wooded hills flanked by a broad expanse of sky replete with heavy storm clouds. The rustic nature of the scene, with its simple, wood-frame dwellings and outbuildings, readily brings to mind the words of Charles A. E. Long, who described the houses of Matinicus as “substantially built ... [and] situated on small farms,
    accompanied by barns and other outhouses, each with a commodious ‘wood-house’ incorporated as an integral part of the house itself” (Long, p. 80).

    For an artist associated with metropolitan images such as boxers brutalizing one another in the ring, the domestic aspect of Grammy Ames’ House, No. 1 represents a departure from Bellows’s former thematic concerns. However, by this point in his career, he was looking elsewhere for inspiration and the agrarian quality of his subject––coupled with the lively interplay of sunshine and shadow on the architecture and the tumultuous north Atlantic sky––no doubt appealed to his increasingly poetic sensibility and the more progressive direction he was taking in his art, especially in his growing taste for expressive color. Applying his pigments with thick, rapidly applied strokes of pigment, Bellows
    adheres to a carefully orchestrated palette wherein cool blues and mauves, vibrant greens, and areas of pure white are balanced and offset by warm earth tones and deft touches of red and yellow––a chromatic scheme that creates bold contrasts of light and dark which, along with the artist’s fluent handling, imbues the image with a palpable sense of energy and vitality. Grammy Ames’ House, No. 1 also functions as a portrait of a place: a boldly rendered pictorial record of Matinicus as it appeared during the early twentieth century, at a time when its “inhabitants tilled the soil as well as fished the waters––fishers and farmers, combined” (Long, p. 80).

    This painting is included in the online version of the George Bellows Catalogue Raisonné, compiled and edited by Glenn C. Peck.
  • More Information
    Documentation: Signed
    Notes: Signed lower left: Geo. Bellows/ESB
    Period: New
    Materials: Oil on panel
    Creation Date: 1916
    Styles / Movements: Realism
    Dealer Reference #: APG 21196D
    Incollect Reference #: 543202
  • Dimensions
    W. 18 in; H. 22 in;
    W. 45.72 cm; H. 55.88 cm;
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