George Bellows, the son of a building contractor, was born in Columbus, Ohio on 19th August, 1882. At Ohio State University (1901-1904) Bellows was a talented baseball player but his first love was art and he moved to New York City without graduating.
Bellows studied at the New York School of Art under Robert Henri, leader of what became known as the Ashcan School. He was also taught by John Sloan. In 1906 he rented a studio and began painting scenes of everyday urban life. He also taught art at the Arts Students League.
Bellows developed a strong social conscious and in 1911 began contributing pictures to the radical journal, The Masses. Although rarely paid for his work, Bellows got the opportunity to work with other left-wing artists such as John Sloan, Stuart Davis, Boardman Robinson, Alice Beach Winter, Mary Ellen Sigsbee, Cornelia Barns, Reginald Marsh, Rockwell Kent, Art Young, Robert Minor, Lydia Gibson, K. R. Chamberlain, Hugo Gellert and Maurice Becker.
Bellows were deeply influenced by the events of the First World War and he completed a series of paintings and lithographs on the subject. He also produced 25 illustrations for the The Masses in 1917. This included several anti-war drawings, including the powerful attack on Woodrow Wilson and his Espionage Act, entitled, Blessed are the Peacemakers (July, 1917).
In 1917 Bellows produced the lithograph, Electrocution . He described the print as a "study of one of the most horrible phenomenon of modern society". It was a protest against the sentence of death passed down on Thomas Mooney who had been convicted of being involved in anarchist bombings in San Francisco. As Stephen Coppel has pointed out: "Bellow's horrific subject recalls Goya's etching The Garrotted Man, where the victim is also tied to an upright rectangular block. Bellows equates the fate of those executed by the State with secular martyrdom. Certain devices from religious art are used, such as the signifying of the condemned man by lighter tones, in contrast to the darker tones of his executioners."
In 1919 Bellows moved to the Chicago Art Institute. He also illustrated novels including several by H. G. Wells. The author of The American Scene (2008) has pointed out: "The subjects of his lithographs ranged from sporting themes to images of New York street life, as well as political concerns, while studies of the nude and many portraits dominated the latter years. Bellows worked directly on the lithographic stone for immediacy and speed, and soon showed a mastery of crayon and wash techniques."
George Bellows died on 8th January, 1925 in New York after a neglected attack of appendicitis.