“The Apostles of Ugliness” is what the critics called members of the Ashcan School of painting because these artists painted the life of working-class New Yorkers at the turn of the 20th century using dirty and dark colors that reflected the urban environment. Like the others member of the Ashcan School, George Bellows used a loose and open brushwork to impart his paintings with the energy of urban life.
Bellows’ best-known painting is his Stag at Sharkey’s, a scene from Tom Sharkey’s Athletic Club, which was a drinking club that hosted prizefighting that was illegal at the time. Bellows’ style that distorts the figures with movement and energy presents a scene that is nearly grotesque. It is a type of expressive realism with an immediacy that is intensified in this scene because the viewer is placed within the audience shoulder to shoulder with the other spectators.
Bellows loved Darwinian themes and this was a fresh, bloody, and brutal way to present it.
This is your last week to see this painting and others by George Bellows in a special exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. After this, it will return home to Cleveland, Ohio.