“It seems to me that an artist must be a spectator of life; a reverential, enthusiastic, emotional spectator, and then the great dramas of human nature will surge through his mind.” (GEORGE BELLOWS, 1917)
Man on his Back, Nude. Circa 1916
During my adventures into the online Auction World over the last few weeks, now that there seems to be a huge dry spell in the various European Auction sites, I noticed there was an auction of 19th and 20th Century prints at the Rachael Davis Fine Arts site. As I wondered through the pre-sale online gallery, I ran across a print by the famous American Artist GEORGE BELLOWS (1882-1925) titled: “Man on his back, Nude,” ca. 1916. I have always loved the American printmakers of the early 20th century since buying a print by Thomas Hart Benton that I found at an Antiques store in New York City in the late 1970’s shortly after Benton’s death. Anyone familiar with the works of George Bellows knows his prints and paintings are full of energy and movement. The auction estimate was in the range of affordable so I decided to sign up and take part in the Live Auction sale. In the mean time, unlike some of my past unsuccessful auction efforts, I decided to do some in-depth research on the print and found the Bellows Family Trust Site online which lists all of his prints available for purchase from the Family Trust found in his studio after his death. I found this particular print in their list of available prints for sale and just about swallowed my chewing gum when I saw the listed price (below). Original signed Bellows Prints can bring a very hefty asking price so I thought why not go for it. It is pulled from the original stone and is number 17 of a rare limited edition of 19 prints. I realize the main objective of selling these prints posthumously is mainly to keep the heirs in cash. Strangely enough the GEORGE BELLOWS Gallery emphatically says that all of GEORGE BELLOWS lithographs were pulled by him and some were left unsigned and later signed by his wife and after her death by his daughter. Here’s a quote from the website: “Thomas French Fine Art has represented the Bellows Family Trust since 2001. The Bellows Family Trust holds original lithographs and drawings created by George Wesley Bellows and left in the artist’s studio at the time of his unexpected early death. All of George Bellows’ original lithographs were printed by the artist or under his direct supervision. There are no posthumous impressions of any of George Bellows’ lithographs. George Bellows was introduced to fine art lithography by Albert Sterner in 1916. George Bellows was a quick study and soon became the leading printmaker of the Ashcan School. As he became more proficient in lithography, George Bellows employed the services of master lithographic printers, George C. Miller and later, Bolton Brown. George Bellows' daughter Jean recalls that Bellows would work until dawn with his printers to achieve the desired pictorial effects, often destroying lithographs that did not meet his exacting standards. Many drawings and lithographs were unsigned at the time of George Bellows death at age 43. At first the artist's widow, Emma S. Bellows, signed the remaining lifetime impressions of his works with the artist's name followed by her initials (ESB). After Emma Bellows' death, her daughter Jean Bellows Booth continued to sign these lifetime impressions of the original lithographs and drawings with the artist’s name followed by her initials (JBB)." Here’s the jaw dropping asking price from the site:
Further research indicated that Jean Bellows Booth died in 2007 so she won’t be signing anymore prints left over in the studio after her father’s untimely death. What the heck, the auction estimate was affordable so I decided to make a stab at owning the print and fortunately it is now part of my collection and it didn’t cost what the Family Trust Gallery was asking. Research materials record that 1916 was the year that GEORGE BELLOWS went from strictly painting and into the world of lithography. The first nudes he produced from life were examples of him exploring his new medium and perhaps technical exercises as he explored and learned the intricacies of the medium. As often in his lithographs he used the entire picture surface, filling the foreground and the background of the image with atmospheric texture. In his early nudes, Bellows explored the various possibilities of lithography using various drawing materials, “Male on His Back, Nude” being one of them. Do some deep digging and explore the beautiful graphic works of GEORGE BELLOWS!
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