Key Ideas about this Work of Art
- This painting depicts a group of dock builders struggling to move giant logs into place. The vivid colors make the scene appear to be sunlit.
- George Wesley Bellows was a member of the Ashcan School, an art movement in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th century. Ashcan School artists portrayed scenes of daily life in America.
- Bellows was interested in artist Hardesty Maratta’s color system. Maratta assigned each color a musical note and then combined the colors to create harmonious “musical chords.”
George Wesley Bellows was born in 1882 in Columbus, Ohio. He attended Ohio State University, where he made drawings for the university’s magazine. He was also a gifted baseball player and was approached by scouts to play professionally. His love of art led him to move to New York City, to attend art school instead.
Bellows attended the New York School of Art and studied under Robert Henri. His art teacher influenced him to become a leading member of the Ashcan School. The Ashcan School was an art movement that focused on scenes from everyday life in New York City. Ashcan School artists aimed to tell the truth about the city and modern life in their work. Some of Bellows’s best-known paintings, like Club Night, are action scenes from boxing matches.
In 1911 Bellows traveled to the coast of Maine for the first time. He returned each summer for several years, to paint landscapes and seascapes. He also began creating colorful oil paintings of American workers that he portrayed in a heroic way. Dock Builders was the first of his ship-building paintings. Builders of Ships (The Rope) is another example. These paintings were based on the revival of wooden ship building in Maine during World War I.
Bellows often experimented with color theory in his paintings. He was especially interested in Hardesty Maratta’s color system. Maratta assigned each color a musical note. He then combined different colors and their notes to achieve a harmonious effect.
Resources for Teachers:
- Watch Part 1 and Part 2 of a documentary about George Wesley Bellows.
- Read a blog post about Dock Builders.
- Read an article about the Ashcan School and the artists who were associated with the movement.
Resources for Students: