Bellows studied under Robert Henri, at the New York School of Art, and became one of the Ashcan School artists, known for their gritty realism, and modernist desire for truth to materials. Reacting to the softness of American Impressionism they often chose dark, muddy tones. Not only was their choice of subjects realist, they wanted the paint, and the application of paint on canvas, to be free of illusionistic effects.
Robert Henri "wanted art to be akin to journalism. He wanted paint to be as real as mud..."
Like other members of the Ashcan school, Bellows worked as a commercial artist, which would have produced his rapid style and eye for strong images.