Friday, June 07, 2013

George Bellows at the Royal Academy.

Today I went to see the George Bellows exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts. It was my first trip to the Academy and my first gallery visit in what feels like forever. About 6 weeks ago I was in central London shopping, I turned a corner at the bottom of Savile Row, looked to my right and spotted the RA. I gasped. Literally gasped. Like a child seeing Cinderella's castle at Disney Land for the first time. Then I knew that maybe, just maybe, I still wanted to draw and paint.

Today, in the Sackler Wing, as I stood in front of the amazing work of George Bellows, who had a relatively short-lived career between 1905 and 1925, I felt myself getting a little closer to opening the bag I brought home, putting charcoal and ink to paper. Bellows drew and painted life in early 20th Century New York and  later Connecticut. His most remarkable pieces are the drawings and paintings he did of the underground boxing world, illegal matches in darkly lit warehouses. They were breathtaking. I don't care for boxing but they were some of the most beautiful drawings and paintings I've ever seen.

Trying to describe his work to Nye when I got home I kept talking about photography and fleeting moments captured. Bellows seemed to me a great documentary artist, working with charcoal and ink and oils to capture the briefest, most passionate of moments, filled with the rawest human emotions. His work was so moving and emotive that I had to skip right past the small section of his war paintings, they were too distressing.

I can't find a single image of his work online that does justice to how beautiful and alive his pieces are, on screen they are mediocre, in the flesh they are not. This drawing (which isn't in the exhibition) perhaps comes close to suggesting the feeling of movement and excitement that was present in almost all of his work. Again, I don't care for polo but that doesn't seem to matter in the face of such great talent.

The exhibition closes this Sunday. I don't know how many exhibitions I have to go to in the closing days before I start remembering to go earlier, when they're (maybe) a little quieter. Probably a good handful more. If you're looking for something to do this weekend I'd highly recommend catching this exhibition before it leaves, it was one of the best £10 I've spent since moving to London.


  1. Oh noooo, I just read this now and got excited because I'm going to be a-wandering in London this weekend and I could catch it. Then I realised you wrote it three days ago which means I missed it and now I'm in the huff. Any other recommendations? I love your art posts.

    I took a drawing class a couple of years ago for the first time since school, and I loved it. Dive into that shopping bag, I dare you.

  2. Do it! Go hide in the greenhouse for a bit & do a quick sketch.

    I wish I had any skill for drawing. Stick figures are about the extent of my talents, maybe also a slightly wonky football. I'm always amazed by what others can coax out of a pencil. Bellows is incredible.

  3. My mother in law has a membership to the RA that I've been meaning to borrow for months now but I get sidetracked by playgrounds and work and visiting family and now I'll miss this one. Bummer.

    MiL liked it too, but I take your recommendation. Ha.

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