Friday, August 30, 2013

Jack Beal, in memorium

I am saddened to hear that artist Jack Beal died yesterday. Although I never met him in person I'd been aware of his art for a long time, in fact since I first started looking at contemporary art, sometime way back in my high school days. I remember my sixteen-year-old self standing in a gallery in NYC and staring, astonished, at a Beal painting hanging among a whole raft of abstractions, like a warmly lit harbor in a dark storm of fashionable obfuscatory cool. I clearly remember a thought that went through my head, "Wow, is he ALLOWED to do that?" And I felt a pang of hope (which of course clearly indicated the direction I wanted to go as an artist.)

Jack Beal The Painting Lesson (To W.M.) 1983Hunter Museum of Art, Chatanooga, Tennessee
So, Jack Beal always held a place of respect in my heart, as a hope-giving role model, though we never met. Then, when I started this Women in the Act of Painting project and began researching and collecting images I kept turning up terrific images of his that fit the WAP bill perfectly. The guy so clearly liked and respected women, beyond merely appreciating their aesthetic value. I discovered to my delight that he was on Facebook, and as is my usual practice with living artists I contacted him and asked if I could use the images. His reply was immediate, generous and encouraging: Of course you have my permission! What a great project! We had some brief but heart-warming exchanges, which I will always treasure.  I'm so glad I got the chance to tell him of my appreciation of his work and express my gratitude for it. I'm not sure I quite had the nerve to tell him of my teenage epiphany. I wish I had.

Jack Beal Anne Wilfer Drawing 1983  private collection

Jack Beal (1931-2013) was born in Richmond, Virginia and attended the College of William & Mary, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Chicago.  He met his wife, the artist Sondra Freckelton while they were both art students in Chicago. He courageously renounced abstract expressionism in the 1960s, and allied himself with the relatively small but diverse "New Realism" group, along with such artists as Philip Pearlstein and Alfred Leslie. Beal began his lifelong roster of one person shows in 1965. He completed beautifully colored and detailed paintings as well as black and white drawings. He has shown extensively all over the country and around the world.  He was a beloved art teacher, known for his great eye, clear instruction and warmly encouraging manner. His work is in major collections around the country including the Hirschhorn, the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Whitney. I guess, yes, he WAS allowed to do that. Thank you Jack Beal, you will be sorely missed!

Jack Beal The Farm 1980
Bayly Art Museum of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia



8 comments:

Sheryl Humphrey said...

Great post! I enjoyed this warm tribute to a most worthy artist, and seeing 3 of his paintings that are included in your Women in the Act of Painting project.

The Other Diane said...

A beautiful tribute. He was special

Durinda Cheek, Fine Artist said...

I had the privilege of knowing Jack and his wife Sondra. I took 3 workshops from him, 2 at his home in NY during the summers. Jack did respect women. He talked a great deal about his mentor when he was in Chicago. His wife Sondra was the subject of many of his paintings. She is a renown watercolorist. They met at art school. Jack shared so much of his knowledge with students and rejoiced at our small victories. Thank you for a tribute to this kind giant of a man.

Nancy Bea Miller said...

Dear Durinda, Diane and Sheryl, many thanks for your appreciative comments. It was my pleasure to be able to honor Jack Beal in this way. Reading his student's tributes all over the internet I am confirmed in my own sense of him from our more abbreviated contact. My heartfelt condolences go out to his family and close friends! ♡☆♡

Judy Takacs said...

I remember Jack Beal spoke at the Cleveland Institute of Art when I was there. He said some highly controversial things to the 1980s neo-abstract expressionist students. One thing I clearly remember from his talk was when he showed us a slide of an abstract painting and talked about its line, balance, composition and basically sang its praises. Then he showed us that it was only a very small piece of this gigantic Renaissance masterpiece…it was the marble pattern on the bottom of a single column in a painting with about 35 beautifully drawn and composed people in it. His talk was highly controversial and he made so many good points. Nice to shake things up a bit back then, when very few were doing realism but the illustrators in Cleveland. I was an illustrator at the time.

Anne Wilfer said...

Nancy, Thanks for writing & sharing this wonderful tribute to Jack. He had a profound impact on my life and I will miss him greatly.

miz "b" said...

What a lovely tribute to Jack. I am fortunate to have met both Jack and his wife Sondra. I think I can honestly say he changed my life as regards to painting. I attended the first (and then several others) of workshops and retreats that they held at their farm. They made us all feel welcome and special. there was no "great man" attitude. We were all part of the same tribe.
Those days at the farm and again in Italy are some of my favorite memories.
BTW, I'm happy to see Lois Dodd on your list. I studied with her at the Delaware Water gap back in the mid 1970's. I look forward to exploring the rest of your project.

MBJ said...


Thank you Jack Beal for your rebellious spirit and profound faith in painting. You and your work have inspired me. Thank you too Nancy!