Saturday, December 3, 2011

Saturday Salon: A Favorite Painting or Two.....or Three!

Dancing Bears

Black Bear

A Little Accident

The Bear Dance

The Gossips

His Majesty Receives

Caving the Turkey

The Phantom Crane

 The Lost Balloon 

William Holbrook Beard (1825 - 1900) was an American painter born in Ohio, who specialized in darkly whimsical paintings of animals (most especially bears), usually involved in human-like activities. The paintings were often humorous and satirical in tone.

In 1856 Beard traveled to Italy, Germany and Switzerland then returned home and settled briefly in Buffalo, New York. In 1859 he moved to New York City and opened a studio in the famed 10th Street Studio Building which also housed fellow artists Winslow HomerAlfred Bierstadt and William Merritt Chase.

In time, Beard became famous for his animal paintings, many of which were allegories of human foibles.

It is possible to see the influence of Beard's travels and his fellow painters in his work, but the satirical edge, the whimsy and the humor are all Beard's. I do love the bear paintings of course, but I must admit my favorite two Beard works are The Lost Balloon and the Santa Claus painting - part of which I'm using in my blog header this month.

 William Holbrook Beard - Self Portrait.

To learn more about William Holbrook Beard, please use this link.

William Holbrook Beard is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York. It's hard to miss his whimsical memorial there.

Sculpture by Dan Ostermiller.


  1. Selection, selection, selection! Every one of these paintings is lovely. The Bear Dance, yes, I think I like that one the most. The Lost Balloon too. And...

  2. Yvette, I love you for this post, Love it -love it -love it. I squealed with joy.
    I always wondered who did the dancin Bears.
    Thanks to you Darling Lady,
    now I know.

  3. I volunteer at this cemetery as a Cival War Veteran researcher, and so I am familiar with William Holbrook Beard's unique headstone, Did you know that Beard was without one for over a century until this artist donated the bear sculpture?
    There is an interesting article about it at this NY Times link:

  4. Prashant: Aren't these wonderful? Of all Beard's work, I think these are my very favorites. :)

  5. You're SO welcome, Yvonne. Glad I could be of artistic service. :)

    I love these paintings too.

  6. Pat: I knew you'd probably know all about this memorial. :)

    I love that a great sculptor took the time and made the effort to rectify an oversight. What a lovely tribute. Just incredible.

    Thanks for the link, too.

  7. I've always loved these paintings but never knew anything about the artist. The one with the bear hunting the humans is great--hadn't seen that one before.

    Hope you're enjoying your weekend!

  8. Thanks, Lauren. It's been one of those Saturdays - busy, busy, busy. It's that time of year. The days just fly by in December.

    Hope you're having a great weekened, too. :)

  9. What weird paintings! Whimsical is the right word to describe these paintings. Especially the one where the bear is hunting the humans.

    Thanks for sharing! You have enlightened me as always. :-)

  10. Even before I read your post, I was going to comment on how much I liked your Christmas header. I think "dark whimsy" is indeed the best way to describe Beard's work.

  11. Willow: How about whimsically weird? I like it.

    You're welcome. :)

    You never know what you're going to find around here, that's for sure.

  12. Deb: I didn't post some of his more pointed allegories because I prefer his less defined (read less dark) work.

    I've loved my header painting since a friend sent it to me as a card a few years ago.

  13. I'm guessing that Beard's delightful paintings might have been an influence on Coolidge, that equally whimsical painter of dogs, though I see more irony in Beard's work.

    The bears hunting remind me of an antique German engraving that I once saw at auction and passed up, but never forgot — all the forest animals acting as the hunter's pallbearers. So dark and funny.

  14. I think I view Coolidge's work more as illustration than Beard's. What do you think?

    Beard is much more ironic, for sure. And darker, too.

    Beard did a few of these hunting 'turn-arounds' - it's easy to see how he felt about the so-called 'sport'.

    He really was a good technician, too.

  15. Since discovering your wonderful blog I try to keep up, especially with your weekly salon of artists...what a surprise I had when I saw "Dancing Bears" at the top of the page. I'd just been looking at it a few days earlier (though I can't remember where or why). I wasn't otherwise familiar with Wm. Holbrook Beard, but know much more now (thank you). I like his painting of Santa on his annual trek very much...

  16. I'm in love with them. I've actually seen his work before, but only a couple of them. I can imagine a few of these on the wall of a home library. The snow falling outside with a big fire roaring in the fireplace. Dim lighting and a nice cup of tea.

  17. Eve: You're more than welcome! I really do believe that there's something in the atmosphere when all of a sudden, like some sort of osmosis, we're all on the same wavelength. :)

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  19. Ryan: I'll come and visit and we'll share some tea and scones and enjoy the paintings on the walls. Oh, and the fire. Nice. :)

  20. So many of the animal paintings look like they are illustrations from fantasy or children's books: the one with the fox in regal garb and the turkey carving especially.

    I particularly like "The Lost Balloon" and "The Phantom Crane" both of which remind me of William Turner's masterful use of light in moody settings.

  21. Yes, I agree John, the two paintings you mention are very Turner like, but with a twist in the subject matter.

  22. Oooh, I like the animal paintings, bears and foxes, and Santa and the reindeer.

    I have seen some of these over my lifetime. Several are familiar.

    I like the parody element.

    And the cemetery is near where I lived in Brooklyn, must have passed by it.

    Do you know where the 10th St. studio building is exactly? I pass by 10th St. frequently and will look for it.

    Thanks for more art education.

  23. Kathy, I'm thinking that building on 10th street should have a huge placque on it at the very least. :)

    Or so one would hope.

    I'm learning a lot myself with these Saturday Salons. :)

  24. Thanks, Yvette, for telling me about this post. His work is wonderful. I'm loving your pinterest, by the way!

  25. You're welcome, Iain. I'm so glad you discovered my blog.

    Thanks for the kind words about my Pinterest mania. Jeez, it can be a little time consuming. Ha!


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