Advised by his friend and teacher
This was Bellows’s first figural work to be exhibited around the country—it was included in 15 public exhibitions during his lifetime—and he was awarded the first Hallgarten Prize when the painting was shown at the National Academy of Design in 1913.
In this sympathetic image, the artist has represented the demure laundry girl Queenie Burnett attired in a simple white dress and black stockings, posing with her hands folded before her, set against a dark brown background. Queenie’s difficult life as a child laborer is manifested in her gaunt face, exaggeratedly large eyes, unkempt hair falling over her shoulders, and her awkward figure. Bellows has also managed to capture his subject’s uneasiness at finding herself in an artist’s studio posing for her portrait.
Originally titled Little Laundry Girl
Bellows first listed the portrait in his Record Book A (no. 42, 35) as Little Laundry Girl, but the title was later crossed out and replaced with Little Girl in White and Queenie Burnett. In 1913 he listed it in his Record Book A “Sales and Proffesional [sic] Income” as Queenie.
The painting’s unusual mix of aestheticism and realism is simultaneously appealing and unsettling. A newspaper reporter who visited Bellows’s studio in 1908 may have had Little Girl in White in mind when he commented on portraits of “street gamins.” He noted that although they were “brimming with humor,” the images possessed a plaintive quality “which brings tears and sends people to rescue work.”
New York Herald, quoted in Marianne Doezema, George Bellows and Urban America (New Haven and London, 1992), 131.
Charles H. Morgan, George Bellows: Painter of America (New York, 1965), 104.
A minor controversy ensued when the academy was accused of nepotism, because Bellows, along with two other award recipients, had also served as jurors for the exhibition. Charles H. Morgan, George Bellows: Painter of America (New York, 1965), 168, cites various newspaper accounts of the incident.
September 29, 2016
upper center reverse: Geo Bellows / 1947 Bdway / [illegible]49 N.Y. / "QUEEN" / "GIRL IN WHITE"
The artist [1882-1925]; by inheritance to his wife, Emma S. Bellows [1884-1959]; her estate; purchased May 1963 through (H.V. Allison & Co., New York) by Paul Mellon, Upperville, Virginia; gift 1983 to NGA.
- Special Exhibition of Contemporary Art, The National Arts Club, New York, 1908, no. 56, as The Girl in White.
- Twenty-Second Annual Exhibition of Oil Paintings and Sculpture by American Artists, Art Institute of Chicago, 1909, no. 23, as Girl in White.
- One Hundred and Fifth Annual Exhibition, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1910, no. 601, as Girl in White.
- [George Bellows Exhibition], Madison Gallery, New York, 1911, as Girl in White.
- Special Exhibition and Sale of Oil Paintings by George Bellows, N.A., Marshall Field & Company, New York, 1911, no. 14, as Girl in White.
- Paintings by George Bellows, Art Students League of Columbus, Public Library, Columbus, Ohio, November 1912, no. 19, as The Little Laundry Girl.
- Paintings by George Bellows, N.A., Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio, December 1912, no. 19, as The Little Laundry Girl.
- American Artists, Department of Fine Arts, Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto, Summer(?) 1913, no. 230, as Little Girl.
- Eighty-Eighth Annual Exhibition, National Academy of Design, New York, March-April 1913, no. 216, repro., as Little Girl.
- Montclair, 1913 [according to the artist's Record Book].
- Paintings by Fine New York Painters, Saint Botolph Club, Boston, November-December 1913, no. 5, as Girl in White.
- Seventeenth Annual Exhibition, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, April-June 1913, no. 22, as Little Girl.
- Special Exhibition of Paintings by George Bellows, N.A., Detroit Museum of Art, January 1913, no. 19, as The Little Laundry Girl.
- American Fine Art Section, Anglo-American Exposition, London, 1914, no. 170, as Little Girl.
- A Catalogue of Paintings, Gallery of Fine Arts, Panama-California Exposition, San Diego, 1915, no. 49, as Little Girl in White.
- "Los Angeles Circuit", 1916 [according to the artist's Record Book].
- Modern American Painting: 1915, The Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego, 1962-1963, no. 1, as Little Girl in White.
- George Bellows, H.V. Allison & Co., New York, 1963, no. 1, as Girl in White (Queenie Burnett).
- Gifts to the Nation: Selected Acquisitions from the Collections of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1986, unnumbered checklist.
- The Paintings of George Bellows, Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Columbus Museum of Art; Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, 1992-1993, fig. 10.
- George Bellows, National Gallery of Art, Washington; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2012-2013, pl. 12.
- The Armory Show at 100: Modernism and Revolution, The New-York Historical Society, New York, 2013-2014, not in catalogue.
The medium-weight, loosely woven fabric support was at some point lined with a wax/resin adhesive and remounted on a nonoriginal stretcher. Bellows apparently altered the size of the composition at least twice, because the background paint layers extend into the side and bottom tacking margins and there is a set of old tacking holes and a horizontal edge of thickly applied original paint below the top edge. Infrared examination reveals sketchy background details (a higher upper edge of the floor and a vertical architectural element to the right) that are not visible to the naked eye. The artist applied paint vigorously, with highly textured and unblended brushstrokes in the white dress progressing to a much smoother application in the dark areas and background. There are small, scattered paint losses in the middle of the painting, and ultraviolet examination reveals older losses that have been overpainted. In a recent treatment of the painting (2005–2011), in which the old varnish and most of the overpainting was removed, the extent of these losses was revealed. The losses in white dress are rather extensive in the center; they consist of an old, branched tear and numerous little gouges in the canvas that occurred long ago during an effort to scrape off an old patch adhered to the reverse with white lead. Severe abrasion of the background, particularly in the brown areas just to the left of the figure, was also revealed when the overpaint was removed. A newer tear is found in the upper left. Also during this treatment, the wax lining was removed and replaced with a polyester fabric adhered with synthetic adhesive. A new surface coating of synthetic resin was applied after new inpainting of the losses was applied. When the lining was removed, an inscription was revealed on the reverse.
This inscription reads, “Geo Bellows/ 1947 Bdway/ .146.E49. N.Y./ “QUEEN”/ “Girl in White”
- Peck, Glenn C. George Bellows' Catalogue Raisonné. H.V. Allison & Co. URL: http://www.hvallison.com. Accessed 16 August 2016.
- Bellows, Emma Louise Story. The Paintings of George Bellows. New York, 1929: 4, repro.
- Morgan, Charles H. George Bellows. Painter of America. New York, 1965: 75, 104, 127, 166-168.
- Braider, Donald. George Bellows and the Ashcan School of Painting. New York, 1971: 42, 86.
- American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 28, repro.
- Quick, Michael, Jane Myers, Marianne Doezema, and Franklin Kelly. The Paintings of George Bellows. Exh. cat. Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Columbus (Ohio) Museum of Art; Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, 1992-1993. New York, 1992: 3, 11, 12, 185, fig. 10.
- Brock, Charles, et al. George Bellows. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2012-2013. Washington and New York, 2012: 9, 49-50, 133, pl. 12.