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George Wesley Bellows' Painting, In a Rowboat

Updated on March 24, 2017


George Wesley Bellows’ painting, In a Rowboat, involves the viewers in a dramatic experience with nature. We often notice the beauty of nature and forget that it can be both beautiful and dangerous. The painter utilizes contrast to create drama and emphasis to this event. Bellows balances the composition by using lines and colors. The rhythm of the work guides the viewer’s eyes and unifies the composition. What caught my attention the most about this painting was: subject matter, content, and the techniques used to achieve the final work of art. It also shows the painter’s ability to express his personal struggles through art.

Creating Drama in His Painting

In a Rowboat is a representational painting by George Wesley Bellows created in 1916. The size of this painting is 30 ½ by 44 ¼ inches, and the artist used oil paint. The predominant colors used were black, brown, white, and green. There is a contrast between the dark and light colors. The painting has various shapes and lines. The painting also has bold brushstrokes in some areas while in other areas the painter focuses on more details. Rhythm and implied lines are used in the water and trees.

Bellows utilizes a contrast between light and dark colors to create the clouds and mountains. This technique allows our main focus to go towards that area of the painting. In creating the clouds he uses white on top and black and gray right beneath them. The mountains are dark with hues of green, and the darkness of the clouds is right above them. Another way contrast is used is in the water by using a mix of white and dark blue.

Expressive Lines

In the larger areas the painter uses bold brushstrokes while in smaller areas like the boat he focuses on small details with more precision. This bold brushstroke technique is also noticeable in the trees, where the painter focuses more on color and rhythm. When the painter created the clouds he used the brushstrokes in a downward position and used dark colors, this gives the impression of the rain falling down.

Implied and expressive lines were also used to direct the viewer’s eyes to the focal point. One way this was done was by using color to give the illusion of a downward movement from the clouds to the mountains. Also the attention of the people in the boat is directed towards the clouds. The lines on the water and throughout the painting were all directed towards the mountains. Some areas showed more expressive lines like the trees.


The use of rhythm is also one important part of the painting. The artist utilized the repeated lines on the water with a contrast of dark blue and white to give it movement. He also used the technique in the trees where they appear to be vanishing towards the mountains but have a repeated pattern that gives the illusion of blowing wind. Also the painter added various surrounding mountains which were smaller, but gave a sense of movement.

George Wesley Bellows was fascinated by boxers and painted them often.
George Wesley Bellows was fascinated by boxers and painted them often.

The Story Behind the Painting

George W. Bellows created In a Rowboat to reflect his personal experience with nature. He went on a summer vacation to a small coastal town where he decided to go on a boat ride with his family and a friend. A storm surprised them unexpectedly, and his painting reflects clearly how dramatizing this experience was for them. Luckily everyone onboard survived. The painter was able to capture such a horrific event in his painting.

The main reason why I chose this painting was because the minute I saw it I knew there was more to it than just what my eyes could see. This painting brought to mind my own experiences with nature. Many do not go through storms literally but figuratively they do. They go through emotional breakdowns, sadness, and even diseases that may seem overwhelming. I think anyone can identify themselves with the painter. Many of us would have felt the same emotions he felt as he went through that experience.

The Painter Captured the Beauty of Nature

Three Children by George Wesley Bellows
Three Children by George Wesley Bellows

A Few of Bellows' Paintings

The Big Dory by George Wesley Bellows
The Big Dory by George Wesley Bellows

What do you think about Bellows' painting, In a Rowboat?

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    • firstday profile image

      R Beggs 3 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

      Thanks for your in depth analysis of this piece of art George W. Bellows created In a Rowboat. I enjoyed and shared with my social network TSU so they can enjoy it too. You can find me there at, be sure and check out my profile. I gave you a thumbs up and interesting for this hub. Good work!