About the Artist
Gifford Beal was an American painter, printmaker and muralist, whose early work was associated with the Ashcan School.
Early Life and Education
Gifford Beal was born in New York in 1879, the youngest of six children. His father, William Reynolds Beal, his oldest brother, Reynolds Beal, and his niece, Marjorie Acker, were all accomplished painters.
Beal’s formal art training began when he was just twelve years old, with Impressionist painter William Merritt Chase. Beal and his brother, Reynolds, spent summers at the Shinnecock Hills Summer School on eastern Long Island, where Chase taught plein-air painting.
Beal attended Princeton University from 1896 to 1900. After graduation, he returned to New York, attended the Art Students League, and continued to study with Chase for more than twenty years.
Career and Family
Beal’s early works depicted scenes of daily life in New York and the Hudson River Valley, where he spent his summers. As his travels broadened, so did his exploration of subjects and style. Beal painted the circus, coastal scenes, garden parties and views of the places to which he traveled.
He began to show his work at the National Academy of Design’s annual exhibit in 1901 and almost every year, thereafter, through 1956, and was the recipient of many of the Academy’s awards throughout his lifetime.
In 1907, Beal and his brother, Reynolds were given a two-man show at the Clausen Galleries, which led to their eventual representation by the Kraushaar Gallery.
Beal married Maud Ramsdell in 1908. The couple had two sons.
Beal served as president of the Art Students League from 1916 through 1930, the longest term of any president, and then taught at the League in 1931 and 1932.
In the late 1930s, Beal was commissioned by the Works Progress Administration to paint
ten murals for the Allentown, Pennsylvania post office. He also painted two murals in the Department of the Interior building in Washington, DC and did a panel of murals at Princeton in 1943. The University awarded Beal an honorary Masters degree in 1947.
Beal died, in New York, in 1956. The American Academy of Arts and Letters, of which he was a member, held a memorial exhibition in his honor.
Gifford Beal’s work is part of the permanent collection of the Met, the Whitney, the Art Institute of Chicago and other prominent museums and galleries. The Phillips Collection, in Washington, DC, has a special connection to Beal. Beal’s niece, Marjorie Acker married Duncan Phillips, founder of the Phillips Collection. Acker helped to curate and establish the Collection, and became its director after Phillips’ death in 1966.
Many of Beal’s sketchbooks and personal papers can be found at the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art.
Gifford Beal The Fisherman 1922
Gifford Beal Autumn on the Hudson 1940
Gifford Beal Mural National Park Service: North Country at the Department of Interior Building, Washington, D.C., 1941
Gifford Beal Fifth Avenue Bus #2 1947