About Kent Bellows
June 26, 1949 – September 14, 2005
Kent Bellows has been recognized as one of America’s greatest masters of Realism since first exhibiting in New York in 1985. The Nebraska-born artist, whose father was a commercial artist and watercolorist, began his career as a free-lance science fiction illustrator in the late 1970s for publications such as Omni and Rolling Stone. He moved into commissioned portraiture and then figurative realism by the early 1980s, reaching national acclaim when he was discovered by the New York art market through Tatistcheff Gallery and then later Forum Gallery in New York.
Bellows’ drawings and paintings are known for their meticulous rendering as well as a psychological complexity that rivets the viewer. In 1986 Bellows stated, “The image I create on the canvas is the difference between the reality of a photograph and what is actually happening. This makes for a finely tuned picture, enabling me to capture the subject’s soul.” In 1988 he was quoted, “I am committed to creating an objective, factual, portrayal of the human subject…to give outward form to an inner state, a process which tends to blur distinctions between artist and subject. In this sense, all my portraits are self-portraits.”
Bellows was reluctant to talk about the meaning of specific pieces of work. “I think my pictures have stories behind them, but I like to leave a feeling of openness. I hope that things keep going in the viewer’s mind. There’s nothing more boring than a story too quickly told. Once all the elements of a story are nailed down, the viewer is left with nothing but the artist’s technique.”
“I think my pictures have stories behind them, but I like to leave a feeling of openness. I hope that things keep going in the viewer’s mind. There’s nothing more boring than a story too quickly told. Once all the elements of a story are nailed down, the viewer is left with nothing but the artist’s technique.” –Kent Bellows
Bellows spoke of his admiration for directors such as Kurosawa, Kubrick, Hitchcock, and Spielberg, and their use of composition and light to express emotion. In 1992 Bellows described his art as “little movies that don’t move.” He went on, “I try to make art that is really part of me, that there is just no question about it. I get that from a Bergman film. I get that from Scorsese. I get that from David Lynch.”
Bellows spoke of the impact of the nineteenth century painter, Thomas Eakins, on his work. He referred to him as his “great American hero.” He stated in 1989, “He’s always with me. Whenever I get confused, and I’ve been reading too many art magazines, I always think about him.” Gregory Gillespie, a contemporary figurative artist, was also a great inspiration to him, and he referred to his father, Vernon Bellows, as “a great influence” and his “best critic.”
Bellows often looked to the artists of the Renaissance for inspiration, and their influence upon his work is clear. In 1992 he commented, “I felt like my real teachers were the older painters. They were the ones. I would go to Joslyn (Art Museum), and feel like I learned how to apply paint from what I saw down there.” In 1989, he stated that he was influenced by the painting technique, oil over a tempera base, used by Flemish painter, Jan Van Eyck. “That’s how you get that combination of that incredible other-worldly clarity, with the luminescence of oils.” Bellows once said that he frequently did self-portraits because it is the tradition of artists, especially those he admired most–the artists of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
After a divorce, Bellows talked about the relationship between his art and his personal life in a Nebraska Educational TV documentary, “What is Art?” produced in 1992: “These projects work for me. It’s clarified my thinking. The thing about an experience like divorce for me is it’s just, the way that the meaning drains out of your life. This has been my way to try to put it back, just to make sense of the experience.” He continues, “Talk about saving the world. It does save my world. It’s the way I just kind of claw and find my way through the darkness. I mean that’s it. I can’t imagine a life without making art.”
“I see this mysterious, ethereal museum filled with paintings I haven’t done. That’s what makes the whole trip worthwhile.” –Kent Bellows
Bellows’ drawings and paintings have been included in exhibitions at the Huntsville Museum of Art, Florida International University, the National Academy of Design, Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, the Arkansas Arts Center, the University of Missouri, and art galleries from New York to California. His work has been acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New Britain Museum of American Art, the Toledo Museum of Art, the Arkansas Arts Center, Joslyn Art Museum, and by the collections of Glenn C. Janss, Jalane and Richard Davidson, Rita Rich, and Richard D. Segal (Seavest Collection).
Bellows was 22 when he was quoted as saying, “I see this mysterious, ethereal museum filled with paintings I haven’t done. That’s what makes the whole trip worthwhile.” Bellows died at age 56 of an unknown cause in the building which housed his studio and living quarters in Omaha, Nebraska.