Bellows painted Fern Woods on Monhegan Island, off the coast of Maine, where he and his wife, Emma, began summering irregularly in 1911. Thanks to Robert Henri’s enthusiastic endorsement of Monhegan’s rugged and therapeutic beauty, the remote island became a destination for many American painters in the early 20th century. The summer of 1913, from which Fern Woods dates, was a particularly productive period for Bellows. Filled with bold brushwork and adventurous color, the Mead’s painting provides some insight into the burst of confident inspiration the painter experienced. Invigorated by his natural surroundings, Bellows executed an adept painterly study of light and shadow that verges on abstraction.
Born in Columbus, Ohio, George Bellows belonged to the Ashcan School, along with Robert Henri and other colleagues. His paintings display a vibrant palette and lively brushwork. He is known for his lush landscapes, poignant portraits of family and friends, and incisive scenes of life in the urban tenement. Bellows was a proficient draftsman and printmaker, and his drawings and prints offer passionate vignettes that investigate life in the boxing ring, as well as social injustices, the agonies of war, and other socio-political issues. Bellows endowed his subjects with animation and confidence. Fern Woods was painted on Monhegan Island, Maine, where Bellows spent many happy days, while The Black Bull depicts a scene from Middletown, Rhode Island, where the Bellows family rented a farmhouse in 1918 and 1919.