Pennsylvania Station Excavation
George Wesley Bellows
On View: American Art Galleries, 5th Floor, The City and the Rise of the Modern Woman, 1900–1945
Between 1907 and 1909, George Wesley Bellows completed a series of four canvases devoted to the excavation of Pennsylvania Station in midtown Manhattan. In this version, laborers are dwarfed by the gaping pit they have created as they tear down the old New York in order to build it anew. The dark palette and vigorous brushwork, coupled with the chill winter atmosphere and billowing plumes of steam and smoke, lend additional drama to the scene. The painting has an infernal quality, suggesting the artist’s ambivalence about the rapid transformation of New York in the early twentieth century. The grand railroad terminal that would rise from this excavation was eventually demolished in 1963.
Oil on canvas
31 3/16 x 38 1/4 in. (79.2 x 97.1 cm)
frame: 36 1/4 x 43 3/4 x 3 in. (92 x 111.1 x 7.6 cm) (show scale)
A. Augustus Healy Fund
Painting of pit for foundation of Penn Station.
George Wesley Bellows (American, 1882-1925). Pennsylvania Station Excavation, ca. 1907-1908. Oil on canvas, 31 3/16 x 38 1/4 in. (79.2 x 97.1 cm). Brooklyn Museum, A. Augustus Healy Fund, 67.205.1 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 67.205.1_SL1.jpg)
overall, 67.205.1_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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Can you tell me more about this artist?
George Bellows was born in Ohio and spent his artistic career in New York. He was important member of the Ashcan School, a group of artists who worked in a realist style and took urban life as their central subject matter.
Bellows became famous for his depictions of boxing matches and scenes of New York tenement life. His art touched upon much of the complex social, political, and cultural issues of his time (early 1900s). His painting style was also intentionally rough and expressive which you can definitely see here in this work.