George Bellows (American, 1882-1925),
Jewel Coast, California
oil on wood, 20 x 24 in.; 50.8 x 60.96 cm
Museum purchase, 1959.164
Bellows, known for his flamboyant personality and precocious talent, painted scenes of American life that were very popular during his lifetime. But as enthusiasm for realism waned in the 1940s with the rising influence of modernism, his reputation suffered until, today, he is remembered mostly for his dramatic depictions of boxing matches. These scenes represent only a fraction of his output of more than 600 landscapes and portraits--many of which are as accomplished as his paintings of fights.
Bellows was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio. As a youth he displayed great skill as a baseball player; but after his studies at Ohio State University, he chose to pursue a career in art. In 1904 he enrolled at the New York School of Art to study with Robert Henri, one of its directors. Using the muted platette of Edouard Manet and the bravura brushwork of Frans Hals advocated by Henri, Bellows quickly developed into an accomplished painter of the urban scene.
During the summer of 1917, Bellows, who had accepted a portrait commission in San Mateo, California, settled with his family in the artists' colony of Carmel. Although he wrote Henri that he was delighted with the landscape, Bellows focused most of his energy on painting portraits rather than scenery; he would continue to do so for the rest of his life. Even in the few Carmel landscapes, such as Fisherman (Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Payson) and The Sand Team (Brooklyn Museum), the scenery is more an adjunct to the figures than the main focus of the painting. Two exceptions are Golf Course (Cincinnati Art Museum) and the Joslyn's Jewel Coast, California, where the people are incidental to the spectacular hills and rocks. In both paintings Bellows employed a palette of highly saturated color close to the true colors of the California landscape. In Jewel Coast the brilliant blues and greens of the sky and swirling water accentuate the sculptural presence of the massive yellow rock that dominates the foreground. The result is a muscular, impressionistic, view of the landscape, well suited to Bellow's talents.