barber institute of fine arts
university of birmingham

Bellows and the Body

The Real, the Ideal and the Nude

In February 2015 the Barber announced an important new acquisition – Nude, Miss Bentham (1906), an early masterpiece by one of the most significant American painters of the early 20th century. 

This compelling nude study is only the second painting by George Bellows (1882 – 1925) in a British public collection and the first outside London. Bellows was a major figure in the ‘Ashcan School’: a loose grouping of artists who shared an interest in expressing the modernity of their urban environment– specifically New York City – and a social commitment to realism.

Focusing on the human figure, this exhibition features key loans from the US and the UK, including the Terra Foundation for American Art’s comparable oil of 1909, Nude Girl: Miss Leslie Hall, last shown alongside our nude in 1910.  The role of the body in the work of other artists associated with the Ashcan School, both within and outside the Life Class, is also explored. Displayed adjacent near the Barber’s outstanding collection of late 19th-century French paintings – important precursors for Bellows – the show offers visitors a unique opportunity to get to know a remarkable artist, who, although canonical in the States, is still unfamiliar across the Atlantic.


Take a look what our visitors said about the exhibition…



‘What a GREAT little exhibition! Really well researched. Those 2 powerful paintings of the Nudes are monumental’- Linda, Solihull

‘Impressive exhibition demonstrating Bellows’ treatment of the male and female body very well’- Sam & David, Cambridge

‘Wonderful glimpse of a corner of art history rarely seen in this country’- Terry, Birmingham

‘Beautiful. Congratulations!’- Amy, Brooklyn, New York

‘Interesting and informative about an artist I didn’t know’- M. Denham, Malvern

‘Great selection of material that connects and juxtaposes wonderfully’- R. MacLachlan, Selly Oak

‘Excellent exhibition. Great contrasts from the younger to older Bellows’- Yoleane, Exeter




GEORGE BELLOWS (1882-1925)

The Life Class