James Carroll Beckwith

James Carroll Beckwith was an American Impressionist artist specializing in landscape, portrait and genre paintings. Though born in Hannibal, Missouri in 1852, Beckwith’s family moved to Chicago during his early youth to open a grocery business. At eighteen, he began his art education in Chicago, but after the fire of 1871 destroyed the family’s business, they moved to New York where he enrolled in the National Academy of Design in NYC. In 1873, he traveled to Europe where he enrolled in the newly formed studio of Emile-Auguste Carolus-Duran. In 1875, he passed the entrance exam into the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Throughout his stay, he met fellow artist William Merritt Chase who moved back to New York with him in 1878. They were both hired on as instructors at the Art Students League in New York. There Beckwith remained a highly respected teacher for twenty years until his conflicting viewpoints on modern “non-academic” art would get him dismissed.

Beckwith’s skill in creating flattering portraitures of the upper-class women and military men weren’t the only things that brought his fame. He was a shrewd businessman and made himself known. His dress was flamboyant for the time with light colored suits and bold vests and he and his wife Bertha Hall held many gatherings. In 1910, they moved to Italy for a few years where he painted some plein-air landscapes. Throughout the years, his discontent with modern art and nonacademic artists of the day began to be known as he wrote diatribes to the local newspapers. In 1917, he began writing an autobiography but passed away before he could finish.