George Wesley Bellows is best known for his scenes of urban life, sporting events, and portraits. Bellows was born in Columbus, Ohio. After attending Ohio State University from 1901 to 1904, he enrolled in the New York School of Art, where he studied under William Merritt Chase and Robert Henri; Edward Hopper and Rockwell Kent were fellow students. While in school, he supported himself by contributing illustrations to popular magazines such as Vanity Fair. In 1906 he established his own studio in New York, and two years later won a prestigious award from the National Academy of Design for a landscape painting. Soon after his move to New York, Bellows became associated with the free-spirited group of artists and critics centered around Robert Henri—known as The Eight, as well as by Frank Crowninshield, Edward Hopper, and Leon Kroll. Championed equally by the conservative arts faction related to the National Academy of Design and the more progressive artists, Bellows maintained a curious, and perhaps enviable, position in the American art world. Both radicals and conservatives alike praised his expressive, boldly brushed landscapes, urban scenes, and portraits for their “American temperament.” He was elected an associate of the National Academy of Design in 1909, the youngest member in its history, and became a full member four years later. In 1910 he began teaching at the Art Students League and soon after had his first one-person exhibition at the Independent Artists Gallery in New York. Bellows was among the artists who helped organize the avant-garde Armory Show in 1913 and some of his works were exhibited there. Despite his involvement in the Armory Show and its commitment to promoting the most advanced styles of art, he was able to straddle both the academic and progressive movements. His art encompassed both less conventional subjects such as boxing scenes and political events, as well as more traditional images—portraits and leisure activities.
In 1916 he began to experiment with lithography, an interest he pursued for the rest of his life. His lithographs show dramatic contrasts of light and dark similar to the interplay of light and shadow seen in his paintings, particularly his scenes of boxing matches. And the dynamic and free brushwork of his painted images is carried over into the broad sweep of the lithographic crayon in his prints. In 1922, Bellows moved to Woodstock, New York, where he remained until his death in 1925.