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Gifford Beal sketches, sketchbooks and papers, 1889-2001, bulk 1900-1954

Beal, Gifford, 1879-1956


The sketches, sketchbooks, and papers of Gifford Beal in the Archives of American Art were digitized in 2008. The papers have been scanned in their entirety, totaling 3,677 images.

Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Collection Information

Size: 7.7 linear feet

2 rolled docs

Summary: The papers of painter and muralist Gifford Beal measure 7.7 linear feet and date from 1889 to 2001. The bulk of the collection consists of artwork, in addition to correspondence, writings, printed matter, including one scrapbook, pictorial subject files, photographs, and two scrapbooks of photographs of works of art. Artwork is primarily in the form of sketches and seventy-eight sketchbooks in a wide variety of media. Among the loose sketches are twenty-eight oil paintings on wood board or panel, and fourteen large pastel drawings on canvas depicting dancing figures in a romantic style. Artwork by other artists in the collection include prints by Arthur B. Davies, Rockwell Kent, and Denys Wortman.
Biographical materials include membership certificates, a marriage certificate, and a travel journal kept by Beal's wife, Maud Ramsdell Beal, on their honeymoon. Personal correspondence consists primarily of love letters between Beal and Maud Ramsdell Beal. Three folders of professional correspondence contain letters from Joseph Pennell (1925); Federal Art Project staff from the Treasury Department including Ed Rowan, Edward Bruce, and Forbes Watson (1938); Walker Hancock (1951); and a series of letters signed "Hyde," from Crow Island, Massachusetts, which may have been written by Edward Hyde Cox (1953-1954).
Also found among the papers are printed materials such as exhibition catalogs, clippings, and reproductions of artwork, both loose and in a scrapbook from the 1920s; subject files containing clippings, photographs, and other pictorial references to common subjects of Beal's artwork; a few personal photographs; and photographs of works of art. Notes and writings are found among Beal's sketchbooks, including one long autobiographical essay which may have been for a lecture, a few diary entries from 1942, and extensive notes on the color, form, and lighting of his sketching subjects. In addition to a scrapbook relating to Beal exhibitions, there are also two scrapbooks containing photographs of works of art.

Biographical/Historical Note

Gifford Beal (1879-1956) was a painter from New York, New York Beal was born in Bronx, New York, and brought up in an artistic household. He was the younger brother of Reynolds Beal (1866-1951). Beal graduated from Princeton University in 1900. He studied at the Art Students League and later served as its president from 1916-1929. He was elected to the National Academy of Design in 1914. Beal's typical subjects were urban genre scenes of leisure in New York City, dramatic and humorous circus subjects, marine and coastal views, and landscapes surrounding Rockport, Massachusetts. In later life, he often served as an advisor and juror to museum exhibitions.


Papers were donated to the Archives by Gifford Beal's descendants in three separate accessions. Beal's sons, William and Gifford R. Beal, Jr., donated sketches and sketchbooks in 1992 and 1993. Richard and Lewis Goff, Margaret Beal Alexander, and Telka Beal donated additional sketches, sketchbooks, and materials from Beal's studio in 2000 through the Cape Ann Savings Bank, facilitated by Kraushaar Galleries. Margaret Beal Alexander, Beal's granddaughter, also donated personal papers of her grandparents via Kraushaar Galleries in 2000. Additional sketchbooks and a poster illustrated by Beal were donated by Beal's Estate via Kraushaar Galleries in 2007. Two scrapbooks of photographs of works of art were donated by Beal's Estate via Kraushaar Galleries in 2015.


Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.