The Lone Tenement, 1909
Like many American artists of his generation, George Bellows was interested in the urban construction that transformed New York City into an ultramodern metropolis. The Lone Tenement represents the nearly complete Blackwell’s Island Bridge (now known as the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge or 59th Street Bridge). Although the bridge was an impressive engineering feat and a symbol of progress, Bellows chose to focus on an abandoned tenement building and a group of figures warming themselves by a fire. Bellows imbued the composition with eerie wistfulness, recording the precarious positions of those being displaced to make way for the future.
Bellows was born in Columbus, Ohio, on August 12, 1882. He entered Ohio State University in 1901 but dropped out in 1904 to study under Robert Henri at the New York School of Art. A superb technician with a confident, painterly style, Bellows established himself as the most important realist of his generation. He created memorable images of club fights, street urchins, and construction sites, and garnered praise from both progressive and conservative critics. In 1909 Bellows was admitted to the National Academy of Design, and he helped organize the Armory Show in 1913. He died on January 8, 1925.