Consider that you would never have heard of Willem de Kooning if he'd died at 42—two years before his breakthrough "Black" paintings and all the world-changing abstractions that followed. There would be none of Philip Guston's greatest work, those resonant cartoon canvases he only began painting in his mid fifties. Rembrandt's spellbinding late self-portraits? Not happening—it's the artist's unstintingly depicted sixtysomething visage that beckons you into those eternally compelling works.
In fact, it's a quote from Guston about Rembrandt that might provide the best epitaph for Bellows's too-short career: "The trouble with most modern painting is that it's too clear. The painting of the past which fascinates me is the painting which you can spend the rest of your life trying to figure out, trying to fathom what the artist's intentions were. That's what keeps me looking at it."