Gifford Beal 1879-1956

Home from the Hills

  • 14 3/4 x 35 1/2 inches (37.5 x 90.2 cm)
  • Oil on canvas
  • Signed and titled on verso: Home from the Hills - Gifford Beal

Why We Love It

Gifford Beal studied with William Meritt Chase for years and clearly heard Chase’s exhortations to find his own way. Beal’s distinctive style is evident inHome from the Hills, which blends elements of impressionism with more modern notions of flattened and tilted planes. The painting’s rich, saturated color is a signature of the artist. He never deviated from the notion that art should be aesthetically pleasing.

The Value

Gifford Beal is less well known than many of his peers. At least for the time being this is an opportunity to collect an important American impressionist at a reasonable price. The painting is unlined, in excellent condition, and in its original frame.

Artist Background

1879: Born in New York City. His father was landscape painter William Reynolds Beal; 1891-1900: Studied with William Merritt Chase at his Shinnecock School of Art and Chase’s Tenth Street Studio in New York City; 1896-1900: Attended Princeton University; 1900: Studied at the Art Students League in New York City with Henry Ward Ranger and Frank Vincent Dumond; 1903: Received first major award – 3rd prize at the Worcester Museum of Art; 1914-29: President of the Art Students League; 1914: Became a full academician at the National Academy of Design, New York; 1913-19: Spent summers in Newburgh, New York; 1923-56: Spent summers in Rockport, Massachusetts; 1950: Had first major retrospective exhibition at the Century Club in San Francisco; 1956: Died.

The strong graphic quality of Gifford Beal’s painting style is well displayed in Home from the Hills. By using dark outlines to delineate the forms of the animals and figures, Beal echoes the undulating lines of the hills in the foreground, middle-ground, and horizon. The composition is reminiscent of a sculptural frieze, in which the action moves from left to right, yet the flattened forms and compressed space keeps the energy on the surface of the work. Like most of Beal’s paintings, the rich, strong palette adds dynamism to the work and the vigorous brushwork enlivens its surface texture. The look and feeling of the painting have a folk art quality, yet there is no mistaking it as modern take on a traditional subject.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to brand Gifford Beal’s paintings with a marker of style. It’s fairly clear from his writing that this was his intention. He was constantly evolving as a artist and never wanted to rest on the laurels of his past. He began painting in an impressionist style and counted William Merritt Chase as his most influential teacher. He studied with Chase at the Shinnecock School of Art and then in New York City at the Tenth Street Studio. Interestingly, and not because of a lack of funds, Beal forewent study abroad, which was very odd given the tradition of artists training in Europe and his family’s wealth. Because of this, it has been said that Beal developed a “completely American” style of painting.

Never one to remain with one subject, Beal painted everything from landscapes, to garden parties, to street scenes, to circuses, to seascapes. His skillful draftsmanship and novel approaches to composition enabled him to develop a strong body of work that was constantly evolving. In addition to Chase, Beal counted Childe Hassam as an important influence and mentor. In the 1940s, the artist became interested in the work of Maurice and Charles Prendergast as well as Raoul Dufy. Beal took all of these influences and incorporated them into his style, which was always a free expression of the artist himself.

Gifford Beal’s exhibition history is extensive, ranging from the National Academy of Design to the Art Institute of Chicago to Panama Pacific Exposition, to name only a few. His work is part of many esteemed collections throughout the country.