Reynolds Beal was born in New York City in 1867 and he showed artistic ability from an early age. He first studied at Cornell University (naval architecture), but seriously studied painting with William Merritt Chase in Shinnecock, Long Island in the 1890s and then went to Europe to study with Henry Ward Ranger. From the beginning, Beal’s playful, sparkling, fun-filled, life-experiencing subjects were popular and he made a living painting. By the 1920s, he was known for his original, colorful and entirely delightful subject matter in oil, pastel/crayon and watercolor.
With his brother Gifford Beal (also a painter), H. Dudley Murphy and Childe Hassam, Beal painted and traveled. In 1919 he was selected with Hassam, Glackens and other prestigious painters to exhibit at the Luxembourg in Paris. He exhibited at the Clauson Gallery (NY) and Kraushaar Gallery (NY) as early as 1929 and by 1934 he was an active participant in the Salmagundi Club, Lotus Club, Century Club, National Academy of Design and the American Water Color Society. Considered a “modernist,” he helped found the Society of Independent Artists and the New Society of Artists with Bellows, Hassam, Sloan, Glackens and Prendergast.
Because illness prevented Beal to paint in oil as spontaneously as he would have liked, by 1940 he almost stopped painting, much to the dismay of the art world. Almost all of his work is signed, dated and often inscribed. He adored the beach in Provincetown, Key West, Rockport, Atlantic City and Wellfleet, circus scenes and carnivals and many of his best works convey those themes. Often called “The American Van Gogh,” because of his luscious thick avenues of paint and “the American Chagall” because of his playful subjects, Beal is one of America’s finest impressionists.