The Life Class No. I, first state
Columbus, Ohio, 1882—New York, New York, 1925
In this 1917 lithograph, American artist George Bellows depicts a life drawing class taught by Ashcan artist Robert Henri, held in the evening for working men. Bellows was one of Henri’s students, starting in 1904 when he first arrived in New York from Columbus, OH. The scene shows a group of aspiring male artists crammed together in a small, sky lit space with a potbelly stove in the corner. The figures are piled on top of one another, lending depth to the image, and the female model is shown nude and frozen in a pose above the rest, perched precariously on a small platform. The disparity between the model and her male onlookers is palpable, even if unintentional from the artist. Starting in 1916, Bellows began making lithographs, writing to a friend the following year that he aimed to “rehabilitate the medium from the stigma of commercialism” by bringing it into the realm of fine art. Bellows focused on lithographs for the rest of his career—even installing a printing press in his home—and created works remarkable for their contrast, expression, and social commentary. This version of The Life Class is a first state, printed before any alterations were made.