A work of art formerly in the collection of the late great master of Pop Art, Andy Warhol has been bought by the Barber Institute of Fine Arts in Birmingham, UK. The nude painted by George Bellows, was formerly in Andy Warhol’s collection from 1985 to ’87, when he died. The work has become the first nude acquired by the Barber Institute, where the painting joins works by Botticelli, Rubens, Van Dyck, Van Gogh and Picasso.
Nicola Kalinsky, director of the Barber institute told the Guardian: “This is a thrilling departure for the Barber Institute and our first major purchase for some years. It fits in extremely well with the strengths of our gallery as a historical collection, but it takes us into new areas too. The painting is very American and very much of its time, strengthening and expanding our representation of early 20th-century art.”
The work from 1906 is only the second Bellows painting to take up residence in the UK, after the National Gallery’s purchase last year of the 1912 canvas Men of the Docks. The artist’s work has been the purview of American collectors like artist Andy Warhol, who bought work in 1985, and kept it until his death. But Bellows was much less known in Europe, that is, until his reputation was given a boost by a number exhibitions, which included the first in the UK, at the Royal Academy in London in 2013.
The painting comes from a private US collection via New York art dealer Collisart. The Ashcan school of painters, of which Bellows (1882-1925) was a member, along with Robert Henri, William Glackens, and John Sloan, were best known for their depictions of gritty urban life.
The artist’s best-known canvas, ‘Dempsey and Firpo’ (1924), resides at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art. The work depicts the 1923 prizefight between Jack Dempsey and Luis Angel Firpo. Of late, Bellows had a 2013 retrospective organised by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
The painting collection of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, which is part of the University of Birmingham, includes examples by Botticelli, Bellini, Veronese, Rubens, Ingres, Van Gogh and Gauguin, among others – and is housed in a 1939 Art Deco building designed by architect Robert Atkinson. The institute was founded by Lady Barber, a real estate heir.