George Bellows’ painting, River Rats, portrays a group of young boys playing in the polluted East River against a backdrop of a construction site. The painting depicts the harsh realities of life for these boys who found fun in the insanitary conditions surrounding them. One striking feature of the piece is the large mound of dirt separating the boys from the rest of New York City’s skyline.
Bellows was part of the Ashcan School, an art movement that drew inspiration from everyday urban life in New York City. His bold depictions and gritty realism made him one of America’s most celebrated artists at that time. Apart from River Rats, Bellows also produced other paintings featuring rivers around New York City between 1908 and 1912.
The artwork reflects social commentary on unsanitary living conditions prevalent among working-class Americans during that period. Despite being painted over a century ago, River Rats remains relevant today due to its portrayal of poverty and exploitation – themes still present in many societies worldwide.