Bellows and the Body: The Ashcan School, the Life Class and the Female Nude

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George Bellows and the artists referred to as the Ashcan School are best-known for their striking representations of early-twentieth-century New York City. These scenes of sidewalk and tenement life have received considerable attention from art historians concerned with the social history of art and scholars exploring the complexities of urban realist art. But the group were also deeply committed to painting and drawing from nude models as a form of art education and training, as a response to the powerful forces of censorship and repression that shaped their era, and as a field in which to pursue their realist and materialist concern with the experience of working people. Starting with Bellows’ striking early work, Nude, Miss Bentham (1906), this essay considers the way he, Robert Henri and John Sloan approached the female nude, locating their work within a culture that contained both Anthony Comstock’s efforts to suppress depictions of the naked body and Emma Goldman’s radical, life-affirming celebration of “the nearest thing to us in all the world.”
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of American Studies
Publication statusSubmitted - 29 Jun 2016


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