Portrait of Prosper Invernizzi, 1907 signed 'Geo Bellows.' (lower left) and possibly dated '1907' (upper right) oil on canvas 38 x 30in
PROVENANCE: Estate of the artist, 1925 Emma S. Bellows, his wife Estate of Emma S. Bellows, 1959 with H.V. Allison & Co., New York Private collection, Beverly Hills, California, 1985 Thence by descent to the present owner
EXHIBITED: New York, 42nd Street Gallery, Exhibition of Sixteen, 1908. Buffalo, NY, Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, 1910. New York, National Academy of Design, Eighty-fifth Annual Exhibition, 1910, no.232. St. Louis, The City Art Museum, Fifth Annual Exhibition of Selected Paintings by American Artists, SeptNov 1910. Chicago, Marshall Field Co., 1911. New Haven, Curtiss Studios, 1911. New York, Madison Gallery, 1911. Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, Paintings by George Bellows, Dec 10 1914Jan 3 1915. Detroit, Detroit Museum of Art, Exhibition of Paintings by George Bellows, Jan. 6-29 1915, no.14. Los Angeles, Museum of History, Science and Art, Paintings by George Bellows, N.A., Feb. 7-28 1915. Minneapolis, Minnesota, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Paintings by Lester D. Boronda; Paintings by George Bellows, May 4-31 1915. Muskegon, Michigan, Hackley Art Gallery, Exhibition of Oil Paintings by George Bellows, June 9-Aug. 15 1915. Worcester, Massachusetts, Worcester Art Museum, Exhibition of Paintings by George Bellows, New York City, Sept 5-26 1915. Cincinnati, Cincinnati Art Museum, Special exhibition of paintings by Mr. George Bellows, Oct 1915. New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York Realists, 1900-1914: Robert Henri, George Luks, John Sloan, William Glackens, Ernest Lawson, George Bellows, Everett Shinn, Glenn O. Coleman and Guy Pène du Bois, Feb 9-Mar 5 1937. Washington, DC, National Portrait Gallery, Portraits by George Bellows, Nov 4 1981-Jan 4 1982. New York, H.V. Allison & Co., George Bellows (1882-1925), Paintings, Drawings and Lithographs, Oct 26-Dec 21 1984. Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Paintings of George Bellows, Feb 16 1992-May 9 1993.
LITERATURE: The Artist's Record Book A, p. 48, no. 41. Cincinnati Art Museum, Special exhibition of paintings by Mr. George Bellows, Cincinnati, 1915. Detroit Museum of Art, Exhibition of Paintings by George Bellows, Detroit, 1915, no.14. Museum of History, Science and Art, Paintings by George Bellows, N.A., Los Angeles, 1915, no.14. Emma S. Bellows, The Paintings of George Bellows, 1929, no.11, illus. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York Realists, 1900-1914: Robert Henri, George Luks, John Sloan, William Glackens, Ernest Lawson, George Bellows, Everett Shinn, Glenn O. Coleman and Guy Pène du Bois, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1937, p.12, no.7. Lewis Mumford, "The Life of the City", New Yorker XIII, New York, 27 Feb 1937, p.32. Christman, Margaret C. S., Portraits by George Bellows, Washington, D.C.: National Portrait Gallery, 1981, p.32, illus. p.33. H.V. Allison & Co., George Bellows (1882-1925), Paintings, Drawings and Lithographs, New York, 1984, p.7, no.1, illus. Quick, Michael, Jane Myers, Marianne Doezema, and Franklin Kelly, The Paintings of George Bellows, New York, 1992, p.12, fig.3, illus.
In 1907, the same year the present work was completed, George Bellow's first painting was accepted at the National Academy. Unfortunately, Prosper Invernizzi, the sitter and a fellow student at the New York School of Art, was never recognized by the National Academy despite multiple submissions. In a letter from March 24, 1925, Invernizzi expressed his frustrations to Ernest Blumenschein, a member of the jury of the National Academy: "Really it is a shame! I have been sending for years with the same result...Why don't they give a fair chance to a man that sacrifices for art and beauty of nature." Despite the faintly embittered tone, Prosper Invernizzi's writing also expressed his stalwart and undeterred pursuit of painting: "I will follow my path like an ass on a precipice until the top is reached" (Christman, Portraits by George Bellows, p.32). Prosper Invernizzi was a member of the Society of Independent artists, and according to the New York City directory, he was listed as an artist until 1934.
The present work is counted among Bellow's first portraits at a time when he was not "known as a figure painter" (as quoted in Quick, The Paintings of George Bellows, p.177). The Portrait of Prosper Invernizzi is a fine example of Bellow's talent for capturing the character of his sitter. Invernizzi sits with an easy confidence while his direct gaze challenges the viewer and the environment around him. A few of Bellows' portraits, including the present work, were exhibited in 1910 and "began to draw more notice" towards his figural work so that by 1914, he at last achieved "widespread recognition for his skills in rendering the human form" (Quick, The Paintings of George Bellows, p.177).