George Bellows’s varied interests led him to explore different genres as his mood suited him, but portraiture was one constant throughout his career.
Bellows used portraiture as vehicles for artistic exploration. He found the demands of portrait commissions to be frustrating, but once his career was firmly established, he reserved portraits for friends or family, making these works among his most intimate.
Elizabeth Alexander and her husband were neighbors of Bellows in Woodstock, New York, where he spent his summers. Bellows painted this portrait in September 1924 in preparation for solo exhibition at the Durand-Ruel Galleries in New York the following year.
In this highly decorative, brilliantly colored portrait set in the gold-papered drawing room of Bellows’s house in Woodstock, Elizabeth Alexander is seated on a Victorian horsehair-upholstered sofa, dressed in a showy black lace dress and mantilla.
Bellows here is satirizing the several Spanish portrait painters then in vogue in America, such as Ignacio Zuloaga, for whom Bellows had few nice words.