Ashcan School painter of boxing matches gets his due

The artist George Bellows, who painted some of the most memorable boxing scenes in the history of art, is having an exhibition of his work at Amherst College in Amherst, Mass.

Discussing the painting Counted Out, the AP describes it as showing The loser [lying] in a heap in the boxing ring, his face tucked into his right shoulder and covered with his gloved left hand. The referee kneels over him with two fingers raised in the air while the champion stands in his corner wiping his face, waiting for the count to finish.

Bill McBride, an ardent fan of Bellows’ work, in addition to coaching football and basketball at Amherst, said, “People asked him why he painted all this ugliness, but he was being a realist. He was just painting what he saw.”

Bellows was born in Ohio and moved Manhattan in the early 1900s in the hope that he would gain recognition as a fine artist. As a member of the Ashcan School, Bellows and his fellow travelers recorded the everyday happenings of their urban environment, without frills, nuance or make-believe.

The young painter spent time in New York’s saloons, which in addition to featuring stalwarts like drinking, gambling and whoring, showcased boxing matches, which for the most part were illegal in those days.

“I don’t know anything about boxing,” Bellows said. “I am just painting two men trying to kill each other.”