Artist, Jack Beal

  Jack Beal, in Canton, NY, April, 2005. Jack could be eloquent and he could be passionate, and he could be generous, and much more. Some times he might mug for the camera. 

Jack Beal, in Canton, NY, April, 2005. Jack could be eloquent and he could be passionate, and he could be generous, and much more. Some times he might mug for the camera. 

Jack Beal was born June 25, 1931, in Richmond, Virginia. He was educated at the College of William and Mary, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and took courses at the University of Chicago. Jack married Sondra Freckelton on September 3, 1955, and they moved to New York City the following year. Jack and Sondra lived and worked summers in rural upstate New York on Black Lake from 1965-1974 and established their home and studios near Oneonta, NY, in 1974. 

Jack's first one-person exhibition of paintings was at the Allan Frumkin Gallery in New York City in 1965. For more than forty years Jack showed frequently in solo exhibitions and group exhibitions  with Frumkin/Adams and with the George Adams Gallery in New York.  Jack was honored with a one-person ten-year retrospective in 1973/74 at Boston University, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Jack's paintings are in collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Whitney Museum; Museum of Modern Art; the Neuberger Museum; Museum of Modern Art in San  Francisco; National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia Museum of Art; and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.

  Jack Beal, September. 2011, "The Return of Spring,"  installed  on the mezzanine of the subway station complex under Times Square.

Jack Beal, September. 2011, "The Return of Spring,"  installed  on the mezzanine of the subway station complex under Times Square.

Jack was commissioned to design and paint four murals for the U.S. Department of Labor in Washington, D.C. in 1974. The project involved four twelve-by-twelve-foot canvases and depicts the History of American Labor. It was completed after three years of work and installed in 1977.

The Times Square Subway Improvement Corporation commissioned Jack to create two murals for the Times Square station. This project involved two 7-by-20 foot glass tile mosaic panels portraying the Greek myth of Persephone, the goddess who spends half the year above ground and half in the underworld. The first mosaic was installed in 2001 and the second was commissioned in 2002 and installed in 2005.

Over his career Jack received numerous awards including a National Endowment of the Arts Grant in 1973; Honorary Degrees from the Art Institute of Boston in 1992, Hollins College in 1994 and SUNY at Oneonta in 2007; and an American Academy of Arts & Letters Award in 1996. Jack's work has been discussed in Art of the Real, by Paul Strand; Realists at Work, by John Arthur; Realist Drawings and Watercolors, by John Arthur; and a monograph Jack Beal, by Eric Shanes. Jack was a Visiting Artist and Lecturer at many schools and had teaching appointments at Cooper Union, New York Academy of Art, College of William and Mary, and Hollins College.

Jack Beal died in Oneonta, NY, on August 29, 2013.

Jack Beal's Statement on the "Experimental Suite" Etching Project

In the early 60's I drew a lot, almost every day. I did many self-portraits and even more still-lifes. In 1965 I had my first one-man show, and immediately got caught up in the Art World in its many manifestations. Suddenly I was being encouraged to make prints and I did a number of lithographs. Although I was pleased with most of my prints, I quickly learned that lithography was an inexact science—that the operative law was Murphy's—that anything that could go wrong usually did go wrong. By the time I began doing lithographs my painting style that had been fast and loose had become clear and tight—thus ready to be transposed into lithos.

And I began doing etchings, working on the theory that nothing could go wrong, no matter what.

So I did a number of lithos, with more or less success. Several times I spent way too much time and lost it all—the end didn't justify the means. But I kept plugging, having greater achievements with certain printers. And I began doing etchings, working on the theory that nothing could go wrong, no matter what. And I worked up a number of plates, trying to put together a suite. I was working with Jennifer Melby, feeling wonderful about the ways the plates were developing—using soft-ground and aquatint and spending more and more time drawing on the plates. Then one day I took two plates to Jennifer's shop—plates I had been drawing on full-time for five weeks—and Jennifer immersed them in a bath of (presumably) dilute acetic acid to clear the lines of any excess ground that might have clogged them. But the acetic acid, just purchased, was not dilute, and in a flash we saw the grounds dissolved from the plates and five weeks of work vanished. We both were stunned—I stood up and left the shop, never to return. All my hopes and dreams went out the door with me, and the suite went to rest. Jennifer wanted me to continue, but I could not.

I got the plates back from her and put them aside. I told Brooke Alexander, who was the publisher for this project and who paid for everything, that I could not continue with the prints. Brooke, who had patiently seen me through some of the lithographic adventures and supported me and the prints throughout, accepted my withdrawal from the etching suite. The plates, wrapped archivally, resided in my studio: the proofs were brought out from time to time and considered but then put away again. This went on for years—from 1984 till 2004, twenty years—which is when the suite was reborn.

Early in 2004 I showed the proofs of the etchings to Roger Bailey, a talented man of many parts who had recently retired from his position as professor of printmaking at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York. We had been friends with Roger for more than thirty years, and had made a number of single-color lithographs with him while he was at school and afterward. But now Roger saw the etching suite as a challenge to be met and conquered. He decided to take on the job of bringing the suite to fruition. He proved the plates and we discussed what needed to be done. He took the plates to New York City to have them steel-faced so that the aquatints would hold up under the pressure of the printing—then, he ran sets of trial proofs on different papers with different inks, and we discussed which were the best choices. He then, through the fall and winter, printed all fourteen editions—some as few as ten, some as many as 60. And the Experimental Suite was reborn—with much gratitude to Brooke Alexander, Roger Bailey, and Jennifer Melby. All three made sacrifices to gain the prize.

—Jack Beal; Oneonta, NY, May 19, 2005

Note from Roger Bailey

Jack does not mention in his statement above that he re-worked several of the plates in his “Experimental Suite,” using a burnisher and/or dry point needle before the prints were editioned. Three of the plates included here were actually drawn, processed and proofed by Jack himself, somewhat earlier. Those three are “Self-Portrait with Cap,” a drypoint print Jack proofed in 1965; “Self-Portrait Brooding,” an etching Jack also proofed in 1965; and “Three Elms,” an etching Jack proofed while living on Black Lake in 1973. None of these three plates were editioned until 2004-05 and are a good part of the “experimental” in Jack's reference to the “Experimental Suite.” Jack writes in his statement above that we printed fourteen different editions. There are just eleven editions of the plates shown here because several of the editions were never intended to be exhibited publicly.