Museum News

Fort Worth's Amon Carter Museum acquires first painting by George Bellows

Fort Worth museum acquires first painting by George Bellows

George Bellows, The Fisherman
The Fisherman, oil on canvas, 1917, by George Bellows.  Photo courtesy of Amon Carter Museum of American Art

The Amon Carter Museum of American Art has acquired a landmark painting by acclaimed 20th-century artist George Bellows: The Fisherman, which he painted in 1917.

Amon Carter already holds a full set of 230 lithographs by Bellows, but it's the artist's first painting to enter the museum's collection. The painting will be on view beginning December 21, alongside a lithograph of the artist’s iconic 1909 boxing scene, A Stag at Sharkey’s.

Andrew J. Walker, Amon Carter's executive director, called the painting "one of the museum's most significant acquisitions in the last 10 years."

"Bellows is perhaps most famous for his gritty depictions of early 20th-century New York urban life," Walker says in a release. "But he was equally adept at depicting the powerful force of the American landscape. This fascinating painting adds invaluable depth to our collection and will surely become a visitor favorite."

Bellows began painting seascapes in 1911. He created more than 250 paintings inspired by the water, which he referred to as his "eternal subject."

In 1917, he spent the summer visiting the scenic outlooks of Big Sur and Point Lobos in Carmel, California, where he painted en plein air. While there, he created The Fisherman, considered one of the last important oils of the sea by Bellows, according to the scholar Michael Quick.

Shirley Reece-Hughes, curator of paintings and sculpture, describes the painting as bold and dramatic.

"Bellows used his signature exuberant brushstrokes and thick oil paint, along with a palette of brilliant hues, to depict the raw power of the ocean," she says. "The subject of the lone fisherman trying to harness nature suggests the ethos of the physical and ideological manhood of Bellows' generation that stemmed from President Theodore Roosevelt's belief in the 'strenuous life.'"

The painting fills a gap in the Amon Carter's painting collection between the 19th-century realist tradition and the 20th-century modernist movement, says Brett Abbott, director of collections and exhibitions.

"Bellows embraced traditions of 19th-century realism, yet infused them with vigorous dynamism and experimental color theories that aligned with the avant-garde," he says. "The acquisition of The Fisherman follows the Amon Carter's history of collecting exceptional artworks created by artists during westward sojourns. It represents the first painting of a West Coast scene to enter the collection by a key figure in the history of American art."