The BarricadeOn Display

A member of New York’s Ash Can School, Bellows achieved prominence for his bold depictions of the bustling city, which did not shy away from showing the seamier side of urban life. In 1918, moved by reports of atrocities committed against civilians during the First World War, Bellows departed from his typical subjects and painted five large-scale canvases to call attention to their plight. “The Barricade” derives from an incident during the invasion of Belgium in August 1914, when German soldiers used townspeople as a human shield. Bellows presented the victims as nudes, simultaneously underscoring their vulnerability and recalling depictions of martyred saints from the history of art. Because Bellows had not witnessed these events firsthand, the artist Joseph Pennell charged that he had no right to paint them. Bellows replied that he was not aware that Leonardo da Vinci had “had a ticket to paint the Last Supper.”

  • 1918
  • 48 1/8 x 83 1/2 in. (122.2 x 212.1 cm) frame: 58 1/2 x 93 x 3 in. (148.6 x 236.2 x 7.6 cm)
  • signed UR: Geo Bellows
  • 1990.124
  • Museum purchase with funds provided by the Harold and Regina Simon Fund, the Friends of American Art, Margaret Gresham Livingston, and Crawford L. Taylor, Jr.
  • Estate of the artist (1925); Emma S. Bellows, his wife; Estate of Emma S. Bellows (1959); H. V. Allison & Co., New York, NY; by purchase, Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, AL (1991)