Emma at the Piano

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George Bellows
American (1882-1925)
Emma at the Piano, 1914
Oil on panel

Though not officially a member of The Eight, Bellows was strongly influenced by the vital realist style of his teacher Robert Henri, a central member of that group. He is best remembered as the painter of slugging prizefighters and other quintessentially “masculine” subjects suggesting power and struggle. Yet he was also a highly sensitive portraitist who devoted much of his brief career to images of his wife Emma and their two daughters.    

Emma at the Piano is often considered the artist’s finest portrait of his wife. Bellows reduces the composition to one of near-geometric purity, as the dark horizontal of the piano contrasts with the white band of the keys and serves as backdrop for Emma’s vibrant cobalt blue gown.