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Benediction in Georgia

Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion

Benediction in Georgia

Artist: George Bellows (American, 1882–1925)
Culture: American
Date: c. 1915
Medium: Graphite on paper
Image: 15 7/8 x 20 3/8 inches (40.3 x 51.8 cm)
Sheet: 17 1/4 x 21 15/16 inches (43.8 x 55.7 cm)
Mat: 26 1/8 x 34 inches (66.4 x 86.4 cm)
Classification: Drawing
Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Harry L. Dalton
Label Text:George Bellows was interested in depicting scenes from everyday life. He was associated with the Ash Can School of artists who turned away from the abstract modernist aesthetic coming from Europe. Bellows helped to forge a distinctly American style that would be relevant to all people, not only the advanced art world.

In Benediction in Georgia, Bellows reveals his affinity with a social realist tradition by presenting a stark look at the struggles of the working man, focusing on social and racial inequalities. Here we witness the reaction of a group of prisoners, mostly African-American, to a blessing by a white preacher. Seated on the front bench in the right foreground, three prisoners in striped uniforms respond to the preacher's words and perhaps to their own plight. One looks toward the preacher without expression, another bows his head and the third slumps forward with his head in his hands. Each contemplates the sermon in his own way, and the viewer is left to wonder how each is reacting internally.

Object number: 1976.46.1