Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice

    Description

    George Wesley Bellows (American, 1882-1925)
    Mill Dam, 1924
    Oil on canvas
    16-1/2 x 24 inches (41.9 x 61.0 cm)

    Property from a Palm Beach Estate

    PROVENANCE:
    The artist;
    Estate of the above, 1925;
    Emma Story Bellows, the artist's wife, acquired from the above;
    Estate of the above, 1959;
    H.V. Allison & Co., New York;
    Mrs. Harold Rifkin, Riverdale, New York, acquired from the above, 1967;
    Senator William Benton, Connecticut;
    Louise Benton Wagner, Connecticut, by descent, 1973;
    Louise Benton Wagner Trust;
    Christie's, New York, May 25, 2000, lot 70;
    Private collection, acquired at the above;
    Christie's, New York, November 19, 2015, lot 50;
    Private collection, Palm Beach, Florida, acquired from the above;
    Estate of the above.

    EXHIBITED:
    H.V. Allison & Co., New York, "George Bellows," May 1967, no. 9;
    William Benton Museum of Art, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut (on extended loan);
    Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio and elsewhere, "George Wesley Bellows: Paintings,
    Drawings and Prints," April-December 1979, no. 53.

    LITERATURE:
    Columbus Museum of Art, George Wesley Bellows: Paintings, Drawings, and Prints, exhibition catalogue, Columbus, Ohio, 1997, p. 64, no. 53, illustrated.

    George Bellows cemented his place in the annals of American art with his series of paintings and prints depicting urban life in New York City. Exemplifying strength, vigor and, above all, survival of the fittest, he is perhaps best known for his gritty images of prizefighters in the ring, painted in a tonal palette with broad brushstrokes, evoking the tawdry underworld of prizefighting clubs at the turn of the century.

    But in addition to his remarkable renderings of human grit, George Bellows also mastered the art of landscape painting. From the primal waves and cliffs of Monhegan to the bucolic and lush terrain of Woodstock, Bellows understood the art of pure landscape painting, devoid of human presence yet still encapsulating life and natural vigor.

    Painted in 1924 in the Catskill Mountains of New York State, Mill Dam is a thoroughly modern, expressive and vibrant landscape, employing a bold color palette and bold brushwork that established Bellows not only as an icon of American modernism, but also as one of the most successful of 20th century American landscape painters. As Michael Quick reflects, "In the three charmed periods -- 1913, 1916-17, and 1924 -- when Bellows painted in his strongest color, its exuberance stands comparison with that of any of the Fauve-inspired American modernists. The delightful paintings of these periods demonstrate not only his exceptional gifts in using color, but also, in the spirit of the modernists, his joy in doing so." ("Technique and Theory: The Evolution of George Bellows's Painting Style," in The Paintings of George Bellows, exhibition catalogue, Fort Worth, Texas, 1992, p. 63)

    Much like how Winslow Homer handled his landscapes in the 19th century, Bellows had a deep understanding and appreciation for the powerful force of nature, and furthermore a rare ability to convey that unique spirit and energy of the landscape to his viewers. As Franklin Kelly writes, "[Homer and Bellows'] paintings were assertive not only because they depicted scenes brimming with natural and man-made energy, but also because the canvases themselves were alive with artistic energy and purpose...Homer was a nineteenth-century artist who managed, as very few of his generation did, to paint pictures in the twentieth century that both summed up what had gone before and embraced the future with a spirit of innovation. Bellows was a twentieth-century artist who, like equally few of his generation, managed to absorb the lessons of the past and transform them into a personal and fully modern idiom." ("So Clean and Cold: Bellows and the Sea," in The Paintings of George Bellows, p. 137)

    In Mill Dam, a palpable energy and modern aesthetic is largely derived from Bellows' extraordinary use of color throughout the scene. Bellows co-organized the seminal Armory Show of 1913 and had the opportunity to study the work of the European Expressionists and Fauvists that were exhibiting in New York for the first time. The following summer, he wrote to his friend and mentor Robert Henri, "I have been working with the colors and not much hue [more neutral color] and find a lot of new discoveries for me in the process." (as quoted in The Paintings of George Bellows, p. 44) This new direction to a high-key palette was also influenced by his close relationships with two other American modernists, Leon Kroll and Andrew Dasburg. Sarah Cash explains, "Kroll and Dasburg likely encouraged not only the brightening of Bellows' palette, but also his nascent understanding of how to model form through color relationships in the manner of Paul Cézanne; while in Paris, both were greatly influenced by the French master's work and enthusiastically endorsed it to their fellow American artists. Bellows, for his part, admired Cézanne and would have encountered his distinctive style in works...exhibited at the Armory Show....as well as in publications and other recent exhibitions. In a letter to his Ohio State University professor Joseph Taylor, Bellows all but conjures the artist in describing his new use of strong color to render objects: 'I have been trying to discern dignity in [the] powerful colors I have been painting...great, dignified masses can just as well or better often be made with powerful colors as with grays." ("Life At Sea, 1911-1917," in George Bellows, exhibition catalogue, New York, 2012, p. 162)

    Bellows thought of his compositions in color much as a musician combining notes for a harmonious melody, and would often annotate the back of panels or his record book with a series of letters and numbers to help organize his spectrum of color for each work. Glenn Peck writes that he "told of using what he termed a 'paint piano.' The annotations of color choices in the record book read much like a musical score." ("The Record Books of George Bellows: A Visual Diary," in George Bellows, p. 301)

    Bellows' life was cut tragically short when he succumbed to a ruptured appendix in 1925, just one year after the present work was painted. Looking at works such as Mill dam, one can only wonder how this innovative style would have developed, had his life not been cut tragically short at the age of 42.

    This work is included in the online version of the artist's catalogue raisonné available at www.hvallison.com and will be included in the publication being prepared by Glenn C. Peck.




    Condition Report*: Original canvas. Under UV exam, there does not appear to be inpaint. Extremely faint stretcher bar lines visible along the bottom edge.
    Framed Dimensions 21.5 X 29 Inches
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. Heritage does not guarantee the condition of frames and shall not be liable for any damage/scratches to frames, glass/acrylic coverings, original boxes, display accessories, or art that has slipped in frames. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2021
    7th Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 7
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,135

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    25% on the first $300,000 (minimum $49), plus 20% of any amount between $300,000 and $3,000,000, plus 12.5% of any amount over $3,000,000 per lot.

    Sold on May 7, 2021 for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
    Track Item

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    VIEW BENEFITS
    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
      winnings 
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Only 17 days left to consign to the 2021 October 19 Prints & Multiples Signature Auction !

    Learn about consigning with us

    The high price received is a direct reflection of your hard work and integrity.
    Richard B.,
    Ogden, UT
    View More Testimonials

    HA.com receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source: Similarweb.com)

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search