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Gifford Beal sketches, sketchbooks and papers, 1889-2001

Gifford Beal sketches, sketchbooks and papers, 1889-2001

Beal, Gifford, 1879-1956


Representative image for Gifford Beal sketches, sketchbooks and papers, 1889-2001

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 3,385 images.

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

Collection Information

Size: 6.7 linear feet

2 rolled docs

Summary: The papers of painter and muralist Gifford Beal measure 5 linear feet and date from 1889 to 2001. The bulk of the collection consists of artwork; some correspondence, printed matter, pictorial subject files, photographs, and writings are also found. Works of art are primarily sketches and sketchbooks in a wide variety of media. Seventy-six sketchbooks are found. Among the loose sketches are 28 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 on their honeymoon. Personal correspondence consists primarily of love letters with his wife. 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; subject files containing clippings, photographs, and other pictorial references to common subjects of Beal's artwork; and a few personal photographs and photographs of works of art. Notes and writings are found among his 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.

An addition of 1.0 linear feet received 2015 includes two photograph albums of paintings by Beal. Many photographs are annotated by Beal with the name of the owner or subject of the painting.

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, Mass. In later life, he often served as an advisor and juror to museum exhibitions.


Donated 1992 and 1993 by Gifford R. and William Beal, sons of Gifford Beal, in 2000 by family members Richard Goff, Lewis Goff, Margaret Alexander Beal, and Telka A. Beal, and in 2007 and 2015 by the estate of Gifford Beal c/o Katherine Degn, Kraushaar Galleries.


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

A Finding Aid to the Gifford Beal Sketches, Sketchbooks, and Papers, 1889-2001, bulk 1900-1954, in the Archives of American Art
Biographical Note
Painter and muralist Gifford Beal was born in New York City in 1879, the youngest of six children. Beal began his art training at 13, when he accompanied his older brother, Reynolds Beal, to the Shinnecock School of Art for classes with William Merritt Chase. Gifford Beal continued to study with Chase for ten years at Shinnecock, the Tenth Street Studio building in New York City, and the New York School of Art. Beal attended college at Princeton University from 1896 to 1900, and from 1901 to 1903 he also took classes at the Art Students League with George Bridgman and Frank Vincent DuMond. In 1908, Beal married Maud Ramsdell of Newburgh, New York, where the Beal family also had an estate. They had two sons, William (b. 1914) and Gifford, Jr. (b. 1917).
Beal received all of his training in the United States at a time when European art training was the norm among his peers. Beal's earliest subject matter was taken from the familiar worlds of New York City and the Hudson River Valley, where he frequently spent his summers. Later work would depict other summer homes, including Provincetown, Rockport, and Gloucester, Massachusetts. Throughout his career he explored a variety of styles in his approach to these and other representational subjects such as garden parties, the circus, Central Park scenes, and coastal scenes in the Northeast and the Caribbean.
Beal exhibited at the National Academy of Design's annual exhibition almost continuously from 1901 to 1956, was a member of the Academy from 1914, and won at least seven awards given by the Academy over the course of his career. He won his first award in 1903 from the Worcester Art Museum. He exhibited regularly in major annual exhibitions and world expositions, including the Panama Pacific Exposition of 1915, where he won a gold medal.
Gifford and Reynolds Beal exhibited in a two-man show in 1907 at Clausen Galleries, and the two brothers were both eventually represented by Kraushaar Galleries, where Gifford Beal had his first one-man show in 1920. Beal served as president of the Art Students League from 1916 until 1930, the longest term of any president, and taught there in 1931 and 1932.
Beal was commissioned by the Section on Painting and Sculpture of the Works Progress Administration to paint ten murals for the Allentown, Pennsylvania post office in the late 1930s. The Allentown murals depicted American revolutionaries hiding the liberty bell at Allentown. In 1941, he completed two murals in the Department of the Interior building in Washington, DC:
North Country
, and
Tropical Country
, and he painted seven panels at Princeton University in 1943 depicting the life of the nineteenth-century engineer Joseph Henry. He was awarded an honorary Masters degree by Princeton in 1947.
Retrospective exhibitions were held at the Century Club, San Francisco Museum, Des Moines Art Center, and Butler Institute in the early 1950s. Upon his death in 1956, a memorial exhibition was held at the American Academy of Arts and Letters, where Beal became a member in 1943.
The collection is arranged as 7 series:
Series 1: Biographical Materials, 1900-1909, 1942, 1953 (0.2 linear feet; Boxes 1 and 5)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1906-1954 (0.4 linear feet; Box 1)
Series 3: Printed Materials, 1900-2001 (0.4 linear feet; Box 1, OV 11)
Series 4: Subject Files, 1889-1953 (0.4 linear feet; Boxes 1-2, OV 10-12)
Series 5: Photographs, 1908-1950 (0.2 linear feet; Box 2, OV 10)
Series 6: Artwork, 1900-1951 (3.3 linear feet; Boxes 2-9; OV 10, 13-20 and rolled documents 21 and 22)
Series 7: Scrapbook, circa 1919-1920s (0.1 linear ft; Box 7)
Donated 1992 and 1993 by Gifford R. and William Beal, sons of Gifford Beal, in 2000 by family members Richard Goff, Lewis Goff, Margaret Alexander Beal, and Telka A. Beal, and in 2007 and 2015 by the estate of Gifford Beal c/o Katherine Degn, Kraushaar Galleries.
Processing Information
Each accession was processed to a preliminary level upon receipt. The various accessions were merged, arranged, described, and digitized in 2007 and 2014 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Additional Forms Available

The bulk of the collection has been digitized and is available online via AAA's website. Materials not scanned include some of the exhibition catalogs, news clippings, magazines, pamphlets, books, and printed reproductions of artwork by others in the Printed Materials series and Subject Files series. Additionally, photographs of works of art have not been scanned, and artwork that is too large or too fragile to be handled has not been scanned.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment.

How to Cite This Collection

Gifford Beal sketches, sketchbooks and papers, 1889-2001. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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