As of late I have been reading a book on George Bellows. He’s part of the “ash can school” in New York in the first half of the 20th century (ironically the term “ash can school” was coined for them a good thirty years after they painted).
This group of artists that Bellows was a part of (some others are John Sloan, Robert Henri etc…) would be known for painting nitty-gritty paintings of the goings on in the big city; large tenement houses, boxing matches, crowds, construction sites, and nights scenes in the city would all be in their lexicon’s of subjects.
Here is a quote I ran on of Bellows that captures their ethos:
“I am always very amused with people who talk about lack of subjects for painting. The great difficulty is that you can not stop to sort them out enough. Wherever you go they are waiting for you. The men of the docks, the children at the river edge, polo crowds, prize fights, summer evenings and romance, village folk, young people. old people, the beautiful, the ugly. Everywhere the difficulty that I have had, even when I was quite young, was to stop long enough and do the thing. As a student I was always eager to do the tremendous, vital things that pressed all about me. It seems to me that an aritist must be a spectator of life; a reverential, enthusiastic, emotional spectator, and then the great dramas of human nature will surge through his mind.”
George Bellows 1917
(So no complaints out there as to what to make images of!)