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Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas. Photography by Douglas Dalton.

Return of the Useless

Artist: George Wesley Bellows (1882 - 1925)
Date: 1918
59 × 66 in. (149.9 × 167.6 cm)
Framed: 66 1/8 × 73 1/4 × 3 3/4 in.
Medium: Oil on canvas
Credit Line: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, 2009.6
Not on View
Accession Number: 2009.6
ProvenanceEstate of the Artist, 1925; to Emma Story Bellows [1884-1959] (Artist's wife), New York, NY, 1925; to Estate of Emma Story Bellows, 1959; to (H.V. Allison & Co., New York, NY); to C. Ruxton Love, Jr. [1903-1971], Greenwich, CT, 1959; to Audrey B. Love [1903-2003] (his wife), Greenwich, CT. (Christie's, New York, NY), 2009; purchased by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR, 2009
Label TextReturn of the Useless, Bellows’s haunting image of brutalized Belgian civilians returning in boxcars from their forced labor, is the final painting in what is known as the artist’s “War Series,” a group of paintings, prints, and drawings made in response to the atrocities of World War I.

Compared to the graphic works in this series, Bellows’s paintings benefit from a nearly life-size scale that places the viewer within a few feet of the action, and from the addition of color. The standing woman in the center of Return of the Useless gestures to the suffering and violence surrounding her. By applying a red wash over the boxcar, Bellows suggested the blood-soaked history of its human cargo.