At the Hyde, George Bellows Captures Electricity’s Friendly Glare

THE DAILY PIC: Bellows sees an old woman in a new light.


THE DAILY PIC (#1384): Since I just wrote about the Warhol drawings show at the Hyde Collection in Glens Falls, New York, I guess there’s a chance that some readers may be planning a trip out there. If so, they need to leave time to visit the house museum that’s part of the Hyde spread, since it’s got some wonderful works that don’t get seen much. There’s a lovely little Cézanne, a striking Rembrandt, some eye-catching Renaissance esoterica – and this wonderful portrait painted by George Bellows in 1918.

I love the way his bravura brushwork captures the dry, soft, parchment look of the old woman’s skin. But I wonder if it isn’t capturing something else as well: The hard, bright light of the new electric fixtures, which his sitter would have been spared for most of her life. (Maybe that’s partly the subject of the piece.)

Of course, you could also say that electric lighting has done her a favor: It gives Bellows an excuse to overexpose her face, and wash out much of its age, the way Hollywood photographers soon learned to do. (Gift of American Paintings Galleries, Inc.; photo by Steven Sloman)

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