George Wesley Bellows (1882-1925)
Property from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph H. Davenport, Jr.
George Wesley Bellows (1882-1925)

The Dock

George Wesley Bellows (1882-1925)
The Dock
signed 'Geo Bellows' (lower right)--signed again and inscribed with title (on the reverse)
oil on panel
15 x 19 ½ in. (38.1 x 49.5 cm.)
Painted in 1913.
Mrs. Cavalier Smith, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1915.
Private collection, Bethesda, Maryland.
Kennedy Galleries, Inc., New York.
Acquired by the late owners from the above, 1972.
Artist's Record Book A, p. 171.
M.S. Young, The Paintings of George Bellows, New York, 1973, pp. 72-73, pl. 26, illustrated (as At the Dock).

To be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the paintings of George Bellows being prepared by Glenn C. Peck. An online version of the catalogue is available at
Chattanooga, Tennessee, Hunter Museum of American Art, The Alice E. and Joseph H. Davenport, Jr. Collection, April 10-June 7, 2015.

Lot Essay

George Bellows first traveled to the island of Monhegan, Maine, during the summer of 1911 at the invitation of his close friend and fellow artist, Robert Henri. Though only three miles long and one-half mile wide, the isle's raw beauty, dramatic coastline and roiling sea provided the ideal scenery for Bellows’ direct, bravura style. The artist was captivated by the myriad of pictorial possibilities, writing, "The Island is endless in its wonderful variety. It's possessed of enough beauty to supply a continent." (as quoted in S. Cash, "Life at Sea, 1911-1917" in C. Brock, et al., George Bellows, Washington, D.C., 2012, p. 160) Bellows was so inspired by the distinctive character of the topography and its inhabitants that he returned two summers later with Emma, his wife, and Anne, his two-year-old daughter, for an extended four month stay.

On his first trip to Monhegan, Bellows, at Henri’s urging, primarily painted sketches on small panels, measuring eleven by fifteen inches. When he returned in 1913, Bellows chose to work on a larger scale of fifteen by nineteen and one-half inches, which still allowed him to carry his easel around the island but simultaneously permitted grander compositions. Bellows wrote in a letter to gallerist William Macbeth, "I am painting on panels 15 x 20 and getting some very complete pictures...I am delighted with some of them...These panels are twice as big as the old ones and a long way removed from quick sketches." (as quoted in F. Kelly, "Bellows and the Sea," The Paintings of George Bellows, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1992, p. 152)

The present work depicts the steamer May Archer, captained by Isaac E. Archibald, landing at the Monhegan dock, located just below the newly renovated Island Inn. The name of the ship is partially identifiable on the name board above the wheelhouse. The Monhegan dock was built in 1904 to accommodate increased tourist activity and ensure that the formally and fashionably attired could easily access the remote island. “Late in the 19th century and early in the 20th century, summer visitors (rusticators as they were called) began to make their way to Monhegan. The steamer May Archer built about 1907 made regular three-hour trips from Thomaston to Monhegan, bringing passengers and building supplies…Compared to the ferries of today, the steamer May Archer was quite large, having several staterooms, wide decks, a heated salon, and even a place to play cards.” (M. Sullivan, C. Krussell, J. Galluzo, Images of America; Monhegan Island, Charleston, South Carolina, 2009, pp. 75, 78) Bellows spent much of his career frequenting areas where people congregated, from rowdy tenements and boxing halls to polo fields and well-manicured parks. As in The Dock, he always approached his subject in earnest, masterfully capturing the spirit and energy of the scene as well as its unique character.

The paintings from his second Monhegan visit, including The Dock, retain the artist's bold handling of paint augmented by a relatively new use of strong primary hues. Without question the seminal February 1913 Armory Show in New York that introduced Expressionism and Fauvism to the New York artist's society had its impact on Bellows. In The Dock Bellows applies thick and generous strokes of paint, creating a three dimensional surface that brilliantly dramatizes the scene portrayed. Meanwhile the figures embarking from the ferry and those congregating on the dock are depicted using quick, confident strokes. There is a genuine immediacy of emotion so eloquently transcribed that it vividly captures that summer day a century ago.

Bellows wrote of his body of work from the summer of 1913: "I painted a great many pictures and arrived at a pure kind of color which I never hit before. And which seems to me cleaner and purer than most of the contemporary effort in that direction." (M. Quick, "Technique and Theory: The Evolution of George Bellows's Painting Style," George Bellows, Fort Worth, Texas, 1992, p. 43) Bellows also wrote to 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.' (George Bellows, p. 44) Bellows was in fact so pleased with this group of paintings from Monhegan that he organized an exhibition of many of them in January 1914 at New York's Montross Gallery. Critics of the show compared them to the seascapes of Homer, "Following in Winslow Homer's footsteps, Bellows, like Rockwell Kent, has translated…with remarkable strength and sympathy, the scenery, the sea and the humans of the stern and rockbound Maine Coast." ("George Bellows at Montross," American Art News 12, January 24, 1914) Blending local color with a newly discovered high-keyed palette, The Dock is a powerful glorification of this remote locale, which radiates from the panel with the artist’s genuine emotional fervor for this beloved region.

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