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George Bellows exhibit at BPL

Posted by Dan Wasserman  October 24, 2008 03:35 PM

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I took in the George Bellows exhibit at the Boston Public Library central branch last night, and it is stunning. With a broad graphic range, Bellows recorded both the mundane and the horrifying during the first quarter of the 20th century. The show includes finished lithographs, developed drawings and preliminary sketches, many of them on display for the first time in 50 years. They are part the library's Wiggin collection, one of Boston's art treasures.


The drawing above is a 1915 depiction of evangelical preacher Billy Sunday, a charismatic crusader against all things intemperate. Wrote Bellows: "He is death to imagination, to spirituality, to art. Billy Sunday is Prussianism personified. His whole purpose is to force authority against beauty... I want people to understand him."

Other subjects in the show include boxing matches, the horrors of war, figure studies and beach scenes from Monhegan Island and Third Beach in Newport. The works are large, bold and striking, and the exhibit is free. Art historian Robert Conway explains and interprets Bellows' life and work in an excellent catalogue that accompanies the exhibit.

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Dan Wasserman has been cartooning for the Globe editorial page since 1985. He has published two collections of drawings, "We've Been Framed" (Faber & Faber, 1987) and "Paper Cuts" (Ivan R. Dee, 1995). His cartoons are widely reprinted and are syndicated internationally by Tribune Media Services. He draws more quickly than he types.