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American Scenes



The Rugged Coastline
George W. Bellows, <i>The Harbor, Monhegan Coast, Maine</i>, 1913, oil on panel
zoom George W. Bellows, The Harbor, Monhegan Coast, Maine, 1913, oil on panel

 

Monhegan Island, off the coast of Maine, was a popular spot with artists in the 1800s and is still a haven for artists today. This tiny island—only a little over a mile long—has a spectacular coast, with rugged cliffs and crashing surf.

In 1911, at the invitation of his good friend and fellow artist Robert Henri, the painter George Bellows spent three weeks on Monhegan Island. Bellows fell in love with the place, describing it as “the most wonderful country ever modeled by the hand of the master architect.” He returned with his family in 1913, and during the summer and fall he worked furiously, painting over one hundred pictures, including The Harbor, Monhegan Coast, Maine.

At the time Bellows stayed on Monhegan Island, the only people living there year-round were a few lobster fishermen and their families. In several of his seascapes, Bellows depicted their life and work. He knew about life by the sea. As a child, he had often visited his grandfather, who was a whaler in Montauk, off the coast of Long Island, New York.

This painting presents a world of greens and blues, of rocky cliffs, brilliant skies, and boats floating on the harbor’s gentle waves. A fisherman wearing bright yellow gear trudges toward the water, carrying his lobster traps. Even from afar, you get the feeling his work is not easy.


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1. Monhegan Island, off the coast of Maine, was a popular place for artists.
2. Up close, you can see the thick brushstrokes and layers of paint. It is easy to imagine how vigorously Bellows painted this scene.
3. Bellows was influenced by Winslow Homer, an American artist known for his seascapes. (Winslow Homer, The Conch Divers, 1885, watercolor on paper)

 

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December 2005