James Carroll Beckwith
(1852-1917)

Best known in his lifetime as an accomplished portrait painter and esteemed instructor at the Arts Students League, J. Carroll Beckwith enjoyed a successful artistic career and fine reputation as a leader of the American art world. Like many of his peers, his inability to accept Modernism and the changes it brought obscured his contribution to the history of American art. Beckwith began his training as young man at the National Academy of Design. While he showed promise as a student there, it was not until he arrived in Paris and commenced his study with Emile Carolus-Duran that his "real art life began." Beckwith became one of Carolus-Duran's favored pupils and his primary studio assistant. He and John Singer Sargent assisted the French painter with the ceiling decoration of the Luxembourg Palace in 1877. Beckwith shared a studio with Sargent and the two artists became lifelong friends.

Upon Beckwith's return to the States, he was hired by the Art Students League as a drawing instructor. His strict academic technique was the perfect foil to his friend and colleague William Merritt Chase's freer painting classes. Together the two artists invigorated the League's curriculum, making it a leading institution for the education of young American artists. The rigor of Beckwith's drawing style is apparent in most of his paintings, which are tightly rendered with controlled brushwork. He showed his work regularly at the many American annual exhibitions. However, his genre scenes of idealized young women often remained unsold, which disappointed Beckwith tremendously throughout his career. He had greater financial and critical success as a portraitist. Among his sitters were Chase, Mark Twain, Theodore Roosevelt, and William Walton to name only a few.