New York, New York: The City as Muse in American Art, September 19, 2003-February 18, 2004 This print relates directly to Bellows’s 1913 oil painting Cliff Dwellers, on display in the gallery at left, in view of this object. Why Don't They Go to the Country for a Vacation? first appeared as the frontispiece for the August 1913 issue of The Masses, an irreverent, illustrated monthly magazine of progressive politics and culture published between 1911 and 1917. John Sloan was the periodical’s art director and was instrumental in getting his artist-friends to submit artworks to illustrate it. Bellows worked simultaneously on studies for Cliff Dwellers (completed in May 1913) and drawings for The Masses. Appropriate to the magazine’s tone, Bellows’s title, Why Don't They Go to the Country for a Vacation?, mocked the snobbish views of many New Yorkers who were incapable of understanding how the poor survived in the hot and overcrowded neighborhoods of lower Manhattan. These were the very sorts of New Yorkers he knew would see his less provocatively titled painting of the same subject for the first time that October. As the critic for the New York Sun wrote in response to its first exhibition, “George Bellows’s Cliff Dwellers is appalling. Can New York really be like that in summer?” Bellows’s drawings for The Masses and the final painting attempted to nullify such apathy by representing unflinchingly how poor people make the best of a difficult situation by spending hours outdoors together in the streets.More...
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