In spring 2011, The National Gallery, London and the Terra Foundation for American Art organized An American Experiment: George Bellows and the Ashcan Painters. An exhibition of works never before seen in the United Kingdom, An American Experiment introduced UK visitors to Bellows and his artist friends (William Glackens, George Luks, John Sloan and their teacher Robert Henri), and to the gritty urban realist movement, dubbed by critics “the Ashcan School.” Urban Realism developed at the beginning of the twentieth century as American painters—especially those in in New York City and Philadelphia—established a uniquely American point of view on the beauty, violence and velocity of the modern world, and looked for new ways to represent that perspective. +
These painters were not only concerned with documenting urban American life, however. While George Bellows, the most prominent member of the Ashcan School group, has primarily been seen as an artist of the city, An American Experiment sought to complicate that view by featuring his more rural landscapes (such as those of the coast of Maine) and works that engage with the natural world alongside his depictions of cities and urban parks.
An American Experiment was conceived as the first in a series of focused exhibitions organized jointly by the National Gallery and the Terra Foundation for American Art that feature the works of some of America’s most innovative artists. It attracted nearly 100,000 visitors.
Dates & Venue
Works of Art From the Terra Foundation Collection
- George Bellows, Nude Girl, Miss Leslie Hall, 1909
- George Bellows, The Palisades, 1909
- George Luks, Knitting for the Soldiers: High Bridge Park, c. 1918
Peters Corbett, David. An American Experiment: George Bellows and the Ashcan Painters. London: National Gallery Company; distributed by Yale University Press, 2011.
Press packet: An American Experiment: George Bellows and the Ashcan Painters, The National Gallery, London
Podcast: “The National Gallery Podcast: Episode Fifty Two,” conversation with Katherine Bourguignon, Curator, Terra Foundation for American Art
Study Day program: An American Experiment: George Bellows and the Ashcan Painters, The National Gallery, London, May 14, 2011