It’s a fun show, in part because he was such a wild and unpredictable artist. Everyone knows the painting to the left, of course, the famous Stag at Sharkey’s. But then there’s the painting below, made in response to the First World War. It sits in a room of war images that verge on the sadistic, filled with highly specific forms of cruelty which Bellows (who never left the United States) knew only second hand. Or imagined. His career is eclectic, filled with idiosyncrasy, and a lot of spectacular painting.
Credits: Top: George Bellows
Stag at Sharkey’s, 1909
The Cleveland Museum of Art, Hinman B. Hurlbut Collection
Below: George Bellows
The Germans Arrive, 1918
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Promised Gift of Ian and Annette Cumming
There’s yet more action. The desire of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to see models and meet with the Eisenhower family and architect Frank Gehry has effectively put a stop (temporary, one hopes) to the approvals process for the memorial. There are a lot of unknowns, whether the Eisenhowers are using political pressure on the Obama administration (denied by Susan Eisenhower and Salazar’s office), or if Salazar is merely trying to be a peace maker, or is worried about this coming back to bite him and the National Park Service if everything isn’t smoothed out now. In any case, the usual judgements apply: The Eisenhower Family is being accorded undue influence over a public memorial; the process so far has included a competition conducted according to established and respected government rules; it has already received unanimous approval by the bi-partisan Eisenhower Memorial Commission (including early on grandson David Eisenhower), and enthusiastic preliminary approval from the Commission of Fine Arts. The Eisenhowers will likely try to grind down Gehry, delaying the process and demanding the evisceration of one of the most interesting, innovative and exciting memorial designs since Maya Lin gave us the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Washington is so predictable.