A visit to Mark Beard’s studio is like discovering Michelangelo’s lair: oil paintings layer the walls, lifedrawings litter the table at the feet of heroic bronzes; ceramics, architectural maquettes are everywhere; virtuosity, in every medium. And then it gets even more interesting.
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My mother also had an uncle who was an artist – Bruce Sargeant. He lived with my grandmother and her husband in 1918, on one of his many returns to his birthplace, Rotherham, a small town outside of Sheffield, England. Through deaths and inheritance, hundreds of his canvases descended on us. This included a collection of work by his contemporaries, colleagues, and teachers.
Bruce Sargeant was a member of the National Academy of Design – its former chief curator, David Dearinger, has referred to his as “the English Eakins.” He was born in 1898 to an American father and English mother. Although in his youth he traveled to New York and Paris, he spent the majority of his life in Rotherham. Not encourage by his family to be an artist, he nevertheless entered the prestigious London art school, the Slade, in 1920, taking evening classes with the Ècole des Beaux-Arts-educated Hippolyte Alexandre Michallon.
Sargeant matriculated from the Slade in 1921, having forged a lifelong friendship with Cromwell and a begrudging respect for Streeruwitz. He returned home to Sheffield and resumed his painting. He also began an affair with a local boy. Within a few years, however, the young man's outraged father learned of their relationship and revealed it to Sargeant's father, who banished Bruce to Canada in an attempt to end the scandal. Bruce maintained a correspondence with his paramour, and longed to be home. Upon his father's death in 1926, Sargeant returned to Sheffield. Though he briefly resumed his local affair, differences in class and education became to significant to surpass. He focused his energies on building a studio, The Firs, and painting portraits, landscapes, still lifes, and more importantly, athletes.
Over the next decade, the Sargeant family business was sold, and Bruce was reduced to a fixed allowance. Modest success in art shows and gallery exhibitions provided him means and reason to travel; he returned to Paris, where he became involved in a tragic affair with a married man, and to New York, to reacquaint himself with the work of the Ashcan painters who so inspried him early in his artistic endeavors. But it was a fateful trip to Germany in 1936 and a relationship with Nazi youth Hans Kramer that resulted in some of his most powerful work. Sargeant was named of the official painters of Great Britian for the 1936 Olympic Games. He not only painted the athletes, but several views of Berlin, including Interior of Hotel Room. This prolific period also resulted in Sargeant's book of etching and poetry, privately published in 1938.
In his short but productive life, Sargeant clung to his faith in the figure, and exalted the body in the tradition of Michallon, though it is only now decades after his death, that he is receiving the attention he deserves. His paintings of the Berlin Olympics indicate a mastery that was prescient – were it it not for his tragic death in a wrestling accident in 1938, there would be far more of his sensuous works to study and enjoy. As it is, there are still discoveries being made of Sargent's work in private collections.
Edith Thayer Cromwell, 1893 - 1962
Edith ("Eddy") Thayer Cromwell was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1893 and died in St. Ives, Cornwall, in 1962. The premature death of her mother left Cromwell the only child of a liberal father who encouraged her artistic pursuits, sending her to study at the Slade in London at the age of nineteen.
It was there that she encountered Hippolyte-Alexandre Michallon. Cromwell responded to her teacher's strict discipline and the two remained friends until Michallon's death in the Cornish cottage she would inherit from him 1930.
At the onset of World War I, Edith returned to America and moved after a time in Boston to New York, where she met Charles Demuth and Mardsen Hartley. They took her to Alfred Steieglitz's gallery, 291 and introduced her to the American avant-garde.
After the first World War and the death of her father, Cromwell returned to the Slade in London and assisted Michallon in his evening classes, where she met young Bruce Sargeant in 1920. Cromwell developed an immediate rapport with the sensitive young man, encouraging him to study full-time and bringing him under the wing of the rigorous Michallon. She painted Sargeant's portrait in 1925 and remained his lifelong friend and confidante. In 1930 she moved to New York where she lived part-time, dividing her summers between St. Ives and landscape painting trips to France and New England.
Cromwell began mixing with a glamorous circle of jet-setting women and embarked upon a series of affairs. She later explored exotic themes ih her work. In the mid-'50s a series of heart attacks forced Edith into semi-retirement, where she painted until her death in 1962.
Hippolyte - Alexandre Michallon, 1849 -1930
The long and peripatetic artistic career of Hippolyte-Alexandre Michallon began in a conventional fashion. The only son of prosperous bourgeois parents in Tours, he first studied drawing with his mother, an accomplished amateur painter of insects. His father, an undertaker who appreciated his son's talent and supported his ambition to become a painter, sent him to Paris at age sixteen to enroll in the studio of Francois-Edouard Picot (1786-1868), an eminent history painter and professor at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, with whom he studied for three years, until Picot's death. Under his aging teacher's guidance and tutelage, Michallon entered the preliminary stages of the Prix de Rome contest at the Ecole three times, winning an Honorable Mention in 1869 for his composition entitled The Solider of the Marathon.
For the next twenty years Michallon regualarly exhibited paintings on historical and biblical themes at the Paris Salon, as well as commissioned portraits. By his own account, the most ambitious work of Michallon's career was a thirty-foot canvas depicting Noah's Ark, which he exhibited in the Salon in 1875. Michallon began painting atmospheric but zoologically correct images of exotic animals in the wild. These achieved a certain popularity among French and foreign collectors alike, providing Michallon with financial security for the first time in his career.
Michallon moved to England in 1893. His outstanding technical skills easily earned him a position on the faculty of the Slade School of Art in 1900. The craze for animal paintings proved short-lived. He continued to teach at Slade for the next two decades, but his classes gradually dwindled in size as the academic approach and methods he espoused went from outmoded to downright unpopular. Finally in 1922, finding himself reduced to a single pupil, the talented young American Bruce Sargeant, he retired from Slade, persuading Sargeant to leave with him and undergo private instruction at home.
Several years later he retired to a cottage at St. Ives, Cornwall, where he lived quietly until his death in 1930, forgotten by all but a few former students, among them Edith Thayer Cromwell, who nursed him during his final year, and Bruce Sargeant, who designed and executed the bronze memorial plaque in his honor in the tiny church of St. Ethylburga-by-the-Sea, where he is buried in the churchyard.
charcoal on paper
I come from an artist family. My father, Russell Beard, never went anywhere without crayons, paper, pencils, a camera, and a pen. He worked in every medium, sometimes on the same piece. As a young man in the 1930's, he traveled the world. I have one of the first Leica cameras that he picked up, brand new, in Germany. He traveled and painted until his death in his mid-eighties.
A major influence in my father's life was his grandfather (my great-grandfather), the regional painter George Beard. Beard was born in Cheshire, England. He arrived in America at the age of twelve, having survived the tragic experience of burying his mother, a Mormon convert, at sea. He persevered in making his way west to Utah, always seeming to find luck and the “kindness of strangers” assisting him on his journey.
A multitalented man, he was a successful businessman and achieved success in a wide variety of areas. Beard helped to design the state seal and was the youngest senator in the first legislature after Utah became a state in 1898 (statehood was delayed until polygamy was outlawed).
He painted and photographed many outdoor scenes in the Rocky Mountain region and further west, and was successful selling his work. Although Beard was primarily self-taught, Thomas Moran, another Englishman traveling in Utah who was later identified with the Hudson River school, certainly influenced his painting. C.R. Savage, a pioneer photographer, was also inspirational. Beard remained active in civic, religious, and business affairs throughout his life, but he always found time for his passions – art and the outdoors. He explored, naming lakes and regions, as well as a mountain for his wife, Lovinia. Traveling all over the West, he photographed (using glass-plate negatives) a pristine wilderness, long before Ansel Adams and sometimes, I believe, more effectively. His photographic work apparently took second place to his painting during his lifetime, but photography was a major part of his artistic technique; thousands of these glass plates are in an archive at Brigham Young University.
Part of my childhood was spent at my great-grandfather's lovely summer retreat, built in the nineteenth century, consisting of log cabins, artificial ponds, and rustic bridges. His log studio, situated on the bank of the Weber River, was shuttered and mysterious. He was long dead by my childhood, but his influence, especially through his art, was everywhere. Art was the thing that we covered the broken window with. Art was the thing we had an awful lot of. Artist families, I suppose, are not so different from other families, although less glamorous and more practical than one might expect.
My father's father, George's son Edgar Thomas Beard, had married a woman from a business and banking family, and that allowed my father a degree of freedom. While in Great Britain in the 1930s, my father met my mother, who was attending college in Northern England at a time when most young ladies were not sent to college. After ten years of courtship and a war, they were married – and then bore my three brothers and me. My father was forty-three when I was born. We were estranged at the end of his life. One of the last times that I spoke with him on the telephone, I asked if he was still painting. He was on oxygen. He answered, no, he wasn't painting, but drawing...breath.
When people describe Francis Bacon's studio with its impacted art detritus, I laugh. An artist in everything, my father, by his eighties, could not navigate in his studio among the cascades of art books, pictures, and sketches. Palettes, paint, and sculpture material blocked every avenue, except for one small place where you would find Dad, sitting cross-legged Hindu fashion, a quirk he acquired in India as a young man.
Solo Exhibitions (Selected)
2016 Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature, Paris
2014 Clamp Art, New York City
2013 Mattatuck Museum (Munger Room), Waterbury, Connecticut
2010/2011 Carrie Haddad Gallery, Hudson, NY
Clamp Art, New York City
2009 Clamp Art, New York City
2007 John Stevenson Gallery, New York City
2005 John Stevenson Gallery, New York City
2005 Jonathan Edwards House Gallery, Yale University, New Haven
2004 John Stevenson Gallery, New York City
2003 John Stevenson Gallery, New York City
1999 Wessel + O’Connor Gallery, New York City
1999 Galerie Wolf, Berlin
1998 Wessel + O’Connor Gallery, New York City
1998 Rivaga Gallery, Washington, D.C.
1997 Wessel + O’Connor Gallery, New York City
1995 Grey Art Gallery, New York University, New York City
1994 Here Art, New York City
1991 Galerie Niel Ewerbeck, Vienna
1990 Recent Works at Helio Gallery, New York City
1990 Theatre Portraits, Home for Contemporary Theatre and Art, New York City
1988 Staatsgalerie Moderne Kunst, Munch
1988 Galerie Biedermann, Munich
1987 Home for Contemporary Theatre and Art, New York City
1986 Galerie Biedermann, Munich
1985 The Harcus Gallery, Boston
Group Exhibitions (Selected)
2009 Carrie Haddad Galley, Hudson, New York
2008 Carrie Hadda Gallery, Hudson, New York
2007 Carrie Haddad Gallery, Hudson, New York
2005 Carrie Haddad Gallery, Hudson, New York
2003 John Stevenson Gallery, New York City
2000 Columbia University, New York City
2000 Morris-Healy Gallery, New York City
2000 Art and Culture Center, Hollywood, Florida
1997 The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh
1997 Feature Gallery, New York City
1997 Pat Hearn Gallery: “Emergency Art Fund Benefit Exhibition”, New York
1995 Artopia, New York City
1993 Franklin Furnace, New York City
1993 Lyrik Kabinet, Munich
1993 Grolier Club: “Fifty Great Artist’s Books of the Twentieth Century”, New York City
1993 Cleveland Art Institute, Cleveland
1992 Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Graphische Sammlungen, Munch
1991 Prix de “HOME”, Home for Contemporary Theatre and Art, New York City (Curated by Mark Beard)
1990 ICI Exhibition at Bess Cutler Gallery, New York City
1990 New York Public Library: “Eighty from the Eighties”, New York City
1990 The National Gallery: “The 1980s: Prints from the Joshua P. Smith Collection”, Washington, D.C.
1990 The Franklin Furnace: “Contemporary Illustrated Books: Word and Image”, New York City
1989 The Toledo Museum of Fine Art, Toledo, Ohio
1988 The Neuberger Museum, Purchase, New York
1988 The Boston Athenaeum, Boston
1988 The American Craft Museum, New York City
1986 The Harcus Gallery, Boston
1984 The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City
1984 The Harcus Gallery, Boston
1981 Alexander Carlson Gallery, New York City
1980 Utah Museum of Fine Art, Utah
2005-2007 Mural painting, friezes and bronze sculpture, Abercrombie & Fitch, New York, Los Angeles, London
2004 Bronze door, Safra Synagogue, New York City
1996 Children’s Opera House, Foyer, Opera House, Cologne
1995 Painted murals, Foyer, Opera House, Cologne
1993 Designed and painted new 75-seat theater: West-End / State Theater, Kölnershauspiel, Cologne
1991 Mural Commission: The public spaces of das Schauspielhaus, Vienna
1984 “Windows on White”, New York
1983 “The Parallel Window”, New York
Albertina, Vienna. The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
The Boston Museum of Fine Art, Boston.
The Boston Athenaeum, Boston.
The Beinecke Library, Yale University.
The Humanities Research Center, Texas.
The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
The Utah Museum of Fine Art, Utah.
Harvard University, Cambridge.
Yale University, New Haven.
University of Missouri at Kansas City.
The New York Public Library, New York.
Princeton University, Princeton.
The Chase Manhattan Bank, New York.
Toledo Museum of Fine Art, Toledo.
Graphische Sammlung, Munich.
Zimmerli Art Museum, New Jersey.
Wolfson Collection, Miami.
National Academy of Arts and Letters, New York.
2012 Gorgeous Gallery: The Best in Gay Erotic Art by David Leddick
2010 Bruce Sargeant and His Circle by Mark Beard
2009 Powerfully Beautiful: Classically Inspired Living Painters of the Male Figure by Grady Harp
2003 Manhattan Fifteen Year Reader, text by Mark Beard. 51 reduction linoleum cuts, collaged and hand-colored.
1998/1938 Fifteen Corporeal Poems, poetry by alter-ego Bruce Sargeant. Etchings and chine-collé by alter-ego Bruce Sargeant.
1992 Aiden, text by Aiden Brady and Mark Beard. Etching and Polaroid transfers by Mark Beard.
1992 Nineteen Famous People, Twenty-two Friends, and Six Nudes, text by Mark Beard. Polaroid transfers by Mark Beard.
The above published with Freard Press, New York.
1993 The Seven Deadly Sins, text by Bertolt Brecht and music by Kurt Weill. Etchings and lithographs by Mark Beard.
1988 Pleasure and Pain by Mark Beard. Linoleum cuts and hand painted bindings by the artist.
1987 Utah Reader by Mark Beard. Collaged linocut with hand coloring by the artist
1986 Moses and the Shepherd by Rumi. Translated by Zhore Partovi with etchings by Mark Beard.
1985 Neo Classik Comix by Mark Beard. Etchings with selectively wiped monoprinting by the artist.
1985 The Cote d’Azur Triangle by Harry Kondolean with etchings and litographs by Mark Beard.
1984 Manhattan Third Year Reader by Mark Beard. Collaged linocuts with hand coloring by the artist.
1983 The Death of Venus by Edith Sitwell with lithographs by Mark Beard.
The above published with Vincent FitzGerald and Company, New York.
1986-1997 Designed over twenty theatrical sets in New York, London, Cologne, Vienna, and Frankfurt
1993 Nomination for Drama Desk Award for set design
1991 Village Voice Obie Award for sustained excellence in set design