George Bellows’ paintings were exhibited in Rochester from the first year that MAG opened in 1913, no doubt due to first director George Herdle’s friendship. A 1918 exhibition provoked local controversy because of its violent images, but University of Rochester president Rush Rhees boldly kept the paintings on view. At Bellows’s death in 1925, Gertrude Herdle Moore, MAG’s second director, assisted with the organization of a memorial exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Memorial Art Gallery.
In 2003, the Memorial Art Gallery organized the first-ever traveling exhibition of Bellows’ Woodstock, New York paintings called Leaving for the Country. Bellows’ nearly ninety-year-old daughter Jean Bellows Booth represented her father by traveling to Rochester for the exhibition opening.