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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Reynolds Beal

Fostertown, New York, 1914,  Reynolds Beal
(one of my favorites)
About three years ago I wrote about the vibrant American Impressionist movement of the late 1800s. Actually, it continued into the early years of the 20th-century as well, though it had a tendency to migrate westward, planting itself in California where Impressionism still, even today, remains popular with art buyers. One of the artists I mentioned at the time was the New England bon-vivant, painter, Reynolds Beal. Beal was then, and remains today, one of the most popular of the dozen or so top American Impressionist from the fin-de-siècle era. Although not trained in Europe as were many of his peers, Beal had one major advantage over virtually all of them--he was independently wealthy. That means he could paint whatever he liked, wherever he like and whenever he liked, any way he liked without worry about where his next tube of paint was coming from.
Beal's training as a naval architect stood him in good stead
when it came to rendering his many oil paintings of marine scenes.

Reynolds Beal
As with many artists from the upper levels of east coast society at the time, Reynolds Beal (left, in the only photograph of him I could find) did not start out with the idea of becoming an artist. Born in 1866, he and his brother, Gifford, grew up in New York City (Gifford also became an artist late in life). Although Reynolds showed considerable art talent as a child, he initially went off to college at Cornell University where he studied naval architecture. Painting was hardly more than a hobby, although as a budding naval architect, drawing and painting were valuable technical skills (above).
Beal delighted in painting every traveling circus that came to town,
and between times, even the carnival atmosphere of the county fair.
Beal spent the year 1901 at sea, where he worked up a sketchbook he titled Cruising Aboard U.S.S. School Ship St. Mary's. He filled its pages with marine etchings, drawings, and photographs. From that point on, Beal focused almost exclusively on painting, living mostly in the artist's community in Noank, Connecticut, with Henry Ward Ranger. After 1912, Beal moved on to the Hudson Valley, where he painted landscapes such as Fosterville, New York (top) and the colorful, whimsical scenes of the traveling circuses that came through the region (above). He was most prolific as an artist between 1910 and 1920.
Beach Ponies, 1918, Reynolds Beal.
Durng this period, Beal also painted the beaches of Provincetown, Key West, Rockport, and Atlantic City. He also used a variety of styles including Impressionism and Tonalism. As he got older, Beal's work became more complex, his colors more vibrant. In addition to oils, he also displayed considerable talent as a watercolorist. Along with his brother, they made Rockport, Massachusetts their home. His studio overlooked Rockport's inner harbor, allowing him to easily draw and etch many harbor scenes, which today make up the bulk of his work.
Judging from the titles of his paintings, Reynolds and his brother, Gifford, seem to have pretty much traveled around the entire world.
Beal and his brother were able to travel widely at a time when few other artists could afford such a luxury. Following many years trekking to all the picturesque spots around the world, in November 1944, Reynolds and Gifford had a large joint exhibition at the Art Center in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, which included eighty-three oils, watercolors, and etchings that had been executed during their travels. They included scenes from Singapore, Trinidad, Samoa, China, Nassau, Egypt, Haiti, Cape Ann (above). Old age and various illnesses prevented Beal from painting as spontaneously as he would have liked. By 1940 he had virtually stopped painting. Reynolds Beal died in Rockport, Massachusetts, in 1951.
One of the frustrations in writing about various
artist is coming upon a painting I like but being
unable to find its title. In this case, all I know
is that the scene above was painted in 1914.
Anyone know the title?

1 comment:

  1. It looks like New London, CT, as viewed from Groton.