Excavation at Night depicts the construction of Pennsylvania Station, a railroad terminal that became the largest indoor space in New York. Painting the site at night gave Bellows license to explore chiaroscuro, extreme contrasts of light and dark. The composition revolves around three brightly lit areas: the workers’ fire in the foreground, floodlights illuminating the excavation walls in the middle ground, and streetlights in the background. Bellows used thickly applied, slashing brushstrokes characteristic of the Ashcan School, a group of artists led by Robert Henri who painted contemporary New York in a self-consciously rough, anti-academic style. With its demonic, silhouetted figures and ominous shadows, the painting has a symbolic connotation of hell.


  • Title: Excavation at Night
  • Creator: George Wesley Bellows
  • Date Created: 1908
  • Physical Dimensions: 34 x 44 in. (86.4 x 111.8 cm)
  • Provenance: Estate of the Artist, 1925; to Emma Story Bellows [1884-1959] (Artist's wife), New York, NY, 1925; to Estate of Emma Story Bellows, 1959; (H.V. Allison & Co., New York, NY); Albert L. Sylvester [1903-1973] and Elizabeth E. Sylvester, Boston, MA, 1961; to Estate of Elizabeth E. Sylvester, by 1976. (Berry-Hill Galleries, New York, NY), by 1992; to (Sotheby's, Inc., New York, NY), 2004; purchased by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR, 2004
  • Subject Keywords: cityscapes
  • Rights: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas.
  • External Link: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
  • Medium: Oil on canvas

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