There may be no painter more associated with New York City in the early years of the 20th century than George Bellows. Like his fellow urban realists, particularly those of the so-called Ashcan School, Bellows fully subscribed to his mentor Robert Henri's credo: to create work "full of vitality and the actual life of the time." Forty-two Kids depicts a band of lanky, nude, and semi-clad boys engaged in a variety of antics—swimming, diving, sunbathing, smoking, and urinating—on and near a dilapidated wharf jutting out over the East River.
A sharp observer of urban life, Bellows sketched his streetwise subjects with his characteristic vigor and economy of means, and he has carefully rendered their varied ethnic backgrounds. In turn-of-the-century slang, "kids" referred to roaming young hooligans who were frequently the offspring of working-class immigrants living in Lower East Side tenements.
When it was exhibited in New York in 1908, the painting was derided by many critics due to its adventurous subject and exuberant style; one writer called it a "tour de force of absurdity." However, Forty-two Kids was purchased less than a year after its completion, marking the second sale of Bellows's career and his first to a private collector.
lower left: Geo Bellows
Collection of the artist, New York; purchased 1909 by Robert C. Hall, Pittsburgh; on consignment by 26 February 1923 with (Wunderly Brothers, Pittsburgh); purchased by 12 October 1925 by Mr. and Mrs. Peter Glick, Pittsburgh; purchased November 1931 by the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington; acquired 2014 by National Gallery of Art.
- 103rd Annual Exhibition, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, January-February 1908, no. 750.
- Eighty-third Annual Exhibition, National Academy of Design, New York, March-April 1908, no. 167.
- Fifteenth Annual Exhibition of American Art, Cincinnati Museum, May-July 1908, no. 26.
- Twenty-first Annual Exhibition of Oil Paintings and Sculpture by American Artistis, Art Institute of Chicago, October-November 1908, no. 21.
- Thirteenth Annual Exhibition, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh,1909, no. 20.
- Exhibition of Paintings, Drawings and Lithographs by George Wesley Bellows, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, 1923, no. 15.
- Memorial Exhibition of the Paintings of George Bellows, Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, December 1925, no. 2.
- Memorial Exhibition of the Work of George Bellows, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, October-November 1925, no. 4.
- Memorial Exhibition of the Work of George Bellows, Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, 1926, no. 2.
- Art in Our Time: An Exhibition to Celebrate the Tenth Anniversary of the Museum of Modern Art and the Opening of Its New Building, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1939, no. 137.
- Half a Century of American Art, Art Institute of Chicago, 1939-1940, no. 13.
- Robert Henri and Five of His Pupils, Century Association, New York, 1946, no. 5.
- De Gustibus: An Exhibition of American Paintings Illustrating a Century of Taste, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 1949, no. 38.
- Canadian National Exhibition Art Exhibit, Art Gallery of Toronto, 1950, no. 112.
- Fifty Paintings 1905-1913, the Fiftieth Anniversary Exhibition, Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, 1955, no. 2.
- George Bellows: A Retrospective Exhibition, National Gallery of Art, Washington, January-February 1957, no. 4.
- Paintings by George Bellows, Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts, March-April 1957, no. 3.
- Loan Exhibition. Masterpieces of the Corcoran Gallery of Art: A Benefit Exhibition in Honor of the Gallery's Centenary, Wildenstein, New York, January-March 1959, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
- The American Muse: Parallel Trends in Literature and Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, April-May 1959, no. 128.
- Past and Present: 250 Years of American Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 1966, unpublished checklist.
- Triumph of Realism, Brooklyn Museum; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond; California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, 1967-1968, no. 97.
- Corcoran [The American Genius], Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 1976, unnumbered catalogue.
- The William A. Clark Collection, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 26 April-16 July 1978, unnumbered catalogue.
- Of Time and Place: American Figurative Art from the Corcoran Gallery, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington; Cincinnati Art Museum; San Diego Museum of Art; University of Kentucky Art Museum, Lexington; Hunter Museum of Art, Chattanooga; Philbrook Art Center, Tulsa; Portland Art Museum, Oregon; Des Moines Art Center; Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Florida, 1981-1983, no. 30, repro.
- Visions of New York City: American Paintings, Drawings and Prints of the 20th Century, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, March-May 1981, no. 15.
- Centuries of Childhood in New York: A Celebration on the Occasion of the 275th Anniversary of Trinity School, New-York Historical Society and Trinity School, New York, 1985, no. 41.
- The Paintings of George Bellows, Los Angeles Country Museum of Art; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Columbus Museum of Art; Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, 1992-1993, unnumbered checklist.
- The Impressionist Tradition in America, 1770-1950, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 2003-2004, unpublished checklist.
- Figuratively Speaking: The Human Form in American Art, 1770-1950, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 20 November 2004-7 August 2005, unpublished checklist.
- Encouraging American Genius: Master Paintings from the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Parrish Art Museum, Southampton; Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte; John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, 2005-2007, checklist no. 64.
- Life's Pleasures: The Ashcan Artists' Brush with Leisure 1895-1925, Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville; New-York Historical Society; Detroit Institute of Arts, 2007-2008, no. 49.
- American Paintings from the Collection, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 6 June-18 October 2009, unpublished checklist.
- George Bellows, National Gallery of Art, Washington; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2012-2013, pl. 7.
- American Journeys: Visions of Place, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 21 September 2013-28 September 2014, unpublished checklist.
- Corcoran Gallery of Art. Handbook of the American Paintings in the Collection of the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Washington, 1947: 81, repro. 82.
- Corcoran Gallery of Art. Masterpieces of the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1959: 62, repro.
- Greenhalgh, Adam. "George Bellows, Forty-two Kids." In Corcoran Gallery of Art: American Paintings to 1945. Edited by Sarah Cash. Washington, 2011: 36, 194-195, 240, 276, repro.