This image has a dark background and features a single boy who is smiling. It is painterly and expressive, and the boy appears to be laughing.

George Bellows

Each generation of young painters wants to be innovative, to create works of art that eclipse in some fashion those currently held in high regard. For George Bellows, who arrived in New York City in 1905 at age 23, this meant to challenge the prevailing interest in refined subjects in painting. The Beaux Arts style at the beginning of the 20th century equated high art with high society. Bellows instead found his inspiration in the working class, which at this moment consisted mostly of immigrants. Over a million Europeans entered America each year through New York’s harbor and many stayed to build its bridges and skyscrapers, to man the restaurants, or simply sell newspapers on the street. Bellows found it easy to mingle with the new immigrants, and fought hard to capture their freshness and expressiveness on canvas. Irish kids were ubiquitous on the sidewalks, and on occasion the artist succeeded in having one of these colorful children sit still long enough for him to complete a likeness. Portrait of a Laughing Boy represents one of the finest of this group. Jimmy’s mirthful vivacity is barely contained, and there is no question that the artist’s painterly style forcefully conveys this youth’s boundless energy. Other compelling portraits of children from this summer include the pensive Queenie Burnett, known as Little Girl in White (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.) and the attentive Frankie the Organ Boy (Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri). As a group they sum up wonderfully the spirit of this age.


George Bellows

Portrait of a Laughing Boy, 1907
Oil on canvas
24″ x 18″
Signed upper left


The artist
Estate of the above
Emma S. Bellows, wife of the artist
Estate of the above, 1959
[With]H.V. Allison & Co., New York
C. Ruxton Love, Jr., Greenwich, CT, 1960
Christie’s, New York, May 23, 2013, Estimated $250,000-350,000, sold for $292,000 Private Collection, Chicago, acquired from the above
Private Collection, Michigan, acquired from the above in 2020