Weekly musings on the arts and current events.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Winter Light

On paper, it's spring, but we've had snow off and on for a week. No complaint. The transformation of the landscape that I see upon awakening after a night of snowfall is magic, pure and simple. I can no longer ski, so shoveling has become my winter sport of choice. Again, no complaint.

George Wesley Bellows is associated with The Ashcan School of early twentieth century American art. He painted street urchins, derelicts, and teeming slums. I suppose his signature works are his dark paintings of long-limbed prize fighters, battling before louche crowds in smokey air. But there was another side to him--perhaps several other sides. He left the grit of New York City to live in Woodstock where he got back to nature and painted landscapes.

In Love of Winter, the realist turns impressionist. Bellows again depicts a large crowd of people, but out in the open, skating a frozen river beneath blue mountains, and not jammed into a tenement. Their faces are blanks; indeed only two seem to have eyes. But there's energy in their body language, and I don't think it's a stretch to say that some recall to us the sinewy strength of Bellows' boxers.

I don't know the back story. Why are they all skating in the same direction? Are they heading to a winter gathering, where a bonfire and hot chocolate await? Is there a set route for them, like that of a marathon? Or is the artist, a socialist, telling us that in this healthy and natural setting, the progress of humanity is united as opposed to the conflict and chaos of the cities?

Perhaps it's best not to speculate too much. I've done my shoveling for the day.

Love of Winter by George Wesley Bellows, 1914. Click on the picture for a closer look.


Anonymous said...

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DUTA said...

Winter Season is cold,restricting, with grey and white dominant colors. However, many people favor this season, partly for its snow-covered landscape (like you, TallTchr), partly for its sports attractions, or both. Judging by his beautiful,lively painting, Bellows seems to have been one of them.

"Love of winter" shows people of all ages skating and having fun.
I like this painting for the vitality displayed by the skaters , and for the painter's smart use of colors: bright, vivid colors (red, yellow, white)in contrast to the rather dark color of the hills in the background. Charming composition!