British National Gallery Buys Painting by U.S. Artist for First Time

Sunday, February 09, 2014
Men of the Docks by George Bellows

The National Gallery in London has acquired its first major painting by an American artist, marking a major change in the gallery’s policy of collecting works from European artists from the Renaissance to the turn of the last century.


The gallery paid $25.5 million for George Bellows’ “Men of the Docks,” a 1912 painting that depicts workers on the Brooklyn waterfront.


The painting had been owned by Randolph College in Virginia, part of the collection of the college’s Maier Museum of Art. It’s the latest in a controversial series of sales by the college. Museum leaders around the country criticized the college in 2010 when it became known that some of its works were being sold to boost the school’s finances, according to The Los Angeles Times.


 “We feel proud that an international audience will now become more aware of Randolph and our long stewardship of Men of the Docks, as this painting takes its place among the masterpieces in the National Gallery,” Randolph College president Bradley W. Bateman said.


The sale also marks the beginning of a trans-Atlantic partnership between Randolph and the National Gallery that will include gallery staff lecturing at the college and students interning at the Gallery.


Although “Men of the Docks” is the first major American painting owned by the National Gallery, it does have works by American-born European artists such as John Singleton Copley and James Abbott McNeill Whistler, and a minor American work, “The Delaware Water Gap” by George Inness, which is rarely displayed, according to the BBC.


The money used to purchase the painting came partly from a fund established by the late J. Paul Getty Jr. Randolph College acquired the painting in 1920 with funds raised by students.

--Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

National Gallery Acquires First US Artwork (by Will Gompertz, BBC News)

National Gallery Buys George Bellows Painting from Randolph College (By David Ng, Los Angeles Times)


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