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Gifford Beal, painter, etcher, muralist, teacher, was born in New York City, 1879. The son of landscape painter William Reynolds Beal, Gifford Beal began studying at William Merritt Chase's Shinnecock School of Art (the first established school of plein air painting in America) at the age of thirteen, when he accompanied his older brother, Reynolds, to summer classes. He remained a pupil of Chase's for ten years also studying with him in New York City at the artist's private studio in the Tenth Street Studio Building. Later at his father's behest, he attended Princeton University from 1896 to 1900 while still continuing his lessons with Chase. Upon graduation from Princeton he took classes at the Art Students' League, studying with impressionist landscape painter Henry Ward Ranger and Boston academic painter Frank Vincent DuMond. He ended up President of the Art Students League for fourteen years, "a distinction unsurpassed by any other artist."
He became an associate member of the National Academy of Design in 1908 and was elected to full status of academician in 1914. He was known for garden parties, circuses, landscapes, streets, coasts, flowers and marines. Beal found early success with his views of the Hudson Valley where his family had an estate called Willellen in Newburgh, overlooking the Hudson River. A gifted technician and draftsman Beal did considerable mural painting including seven panels portraying the life of scientist John Henry; North Country and Tropical Country, Department of the Interior building, Washington, D.C and others. Renewing an early interest for the sea (a subject he had favored during his student years) Beal started to achieve recognition for his marine landscapes. In 1921 he began spending most of his summers on the Massachusetts coast, first at Provincetown then at Rockport. Both he and his brother Reynolds had a strong attraction to the sea.
In the 1940's, Beal, never one to rest on his laurels made a dramatic stylistic change, his painting technique "became freer as he replaced naturalistic perspective with an intricately patterned and flattened picture plane. In the end he adopted a "less objective" style that was high key and "utilizing softer edges." This new work was said to be influenced by Raoul Dufy. However many influences one may choose to cite in Beal's work this is secondary to the fact that Gifford Beal throughout his artistic career derived a strongly personal statement in his art that was "fundamentally sound and aesthetically pleasing."
Beal's paintings have been exhibited extensively throughout the country. He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the American Institute of Arts and Letters, the Architectural League of America, and the National Society of Mural Painters. His work can be found in numerous museums and public collections across the country. Gifford Beal passed away on Feb. 5th 1956 at the age of seventy-five in New York City.
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