Pianist paints musical portrait of George Bellows

Pianist Leslie Amper has a keen interest in the visual arts and enjoys researching artists who have an interest in music.

As a result, Amper has developed a handful of musical programs that relate to the personal interests and time period of visual artists, including American painter and Columbus native George Bellows. She will present George and Emma Bellows: The Music in Their Lives on Thursday, Nov. 7, at the Columbus Museum of Art, as part of the museum’s annual Art of Concern Symposium.

This year’s symposium is a three-day event that is being held in conjunction with the museum’s current George Bellows and the American Experience exhibition.

Amper’s presentation will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7, and is free and open to the public. Visit columbusmuseum. org for details on the full symposium and the Bellows exhibition.

“Bellows is one of the most important American artists of his time, due, in large part, to his remarkable ability to capture in paint the mood, experiences and concerns of his day,” said Melissa Wolfe, curator of American art at the CMA.

“We’re thrilled to bring in a host of international scholars to explore the lasting impact he made on the art world, and incredibly excited to become better acquainted with him through Leslie’s performance.”

Amper began developing the Bellows program a few years back at the suggestion of Stephen Ackert, head of music at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., when it was hosting an exhibition of the artist’s work.

“It turned out to be a rich topic. Emma (Bellows’ wife) played the piano and George enjoyed singing,” Amper told The Beat.

Much of Amper’s research was conducted with the assistance of Mary Ann Kearney, Bellows’ granddaughter, who provided Amper with personal letters and other documents. Through these, Amper learned that Emma Bellows was fond of the music of Frederic Chopin, and that George Gershwin had visited and played the piano at the Bellows’ home.

The recital portion of Amper’s program includes music by Chopin and Gershwin, as well as American composer Charles Ives, who, Amper explained, shared many of Bellows’ philosophies on art, culture and society.

A second portion of the program features audio recordings that would likely have been heard around the Bellows home, in part based on an account from a letter of an early date between the couple. The final part of Amper’s presentation concerns her shared experience with Emma Bellows as a provider of live musical accompaniment to silent films.

“I love having a topic like this to make connections with people and ideas. I look at something like this as ‘widening the view’ on an artist,” Amper said.

“There was certainly a musical side to George Bellows, and I am excited to have the opportunity to present that side.”

George Bellows’ painting Emma at the Piano is part of the current exhibition at the Columbus Museum of Art and among the pieces to which Leslie Amper’s “George and Emma Bellows: The Music in Their Lives” relates. Amper’s program, part of a three-day symposium on Bellows’ work at the museum, will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7. The presentation is free and open to the public; reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 614-629-0359.

 

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