Wednesday, August 26, 2009

George Bellows' Cliff Dwellers

In 1913 George Bellows painted a work titled "Cliff Dwellers." Bellows was part of the Ash Can School, a group of artists who were influenced by every-day life and often depicted scenes in urban centers.

On October 12 the Met Museum will open a show called "American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life, 1765–1915," and Annie Polland, from our education department, has been asked to talk about "Cliff Dwellers" for the exhibit's audio tour.

Annie will give her thoughts on the painting's content based on what she knows about Lower East Side social and cultural history. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where the painting is housed, says, "A large part of the work’s attraction to students of American history has been the fact that it appears to stand out among Ash Can school paintings as a statement of strong social criticism."

What do you think about this painting?

From the Collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
- Posted by Kate Stober


  1. Why is everyone wearing white? Those nightgowns seems to be very white for the LES' dingy streets.

  2. Annie, sounds like a great lecture. Coincidentally, I spoke about this painting in a lecture a few weeks ago as part of series on American landscape and cityscape. I especially linked the work to the many popular newspaper and magazine images of the East Side prevalent form the 1890s on. I suspect there Bellows as also thinking about some aspects of European traditions of vernacular painting, too. Despite its casual style, this is much more than a snapshot picture...It does for the tenements what Moran et al did for the majestic west a half century earlier.
    -- Sam Gruber

  3. it is during the the growth of the city during the early decades of the 20th century.


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