The painting hung for a long time in The Strangers Club * in New York City.
Holbrook Beard painted animals his whole life. He liked bears and monkeys, and I can't decide if the monkeys are racist creepy monkeys or if he, like Donald Roller Wilson, has just thought long and hard about how humanity stacks up against our furry cousins. It's interesting to think of the two of them working a century apart from each other. Here's a great Donald Roller Wilson painting.
The title is no less than this, capitals and all: COOKIE AT SIXTEEN YEARS OF AGE, HOLDING JANE, (TOO TENSE TO TAKE THE BOTTLE), ALONG WITH NAUGHTY BETTY AT FOUR YEARS OF AGE, (TORMENTING JANE), WITH JANE JUST HAVING COME FROM A REGRETTABLE SITUATION IN A TRAILER PARK OUTSIDE THE CITY LIMITS OF PONCA CITY, OKLAHOMA. WITH ALL THREE GIRLS TOGETHER, NOW, IN THE VERY CENTER OF BRENDA'S NUT FARM CLOSE TO LITTLE ROCK, (NEAR ENOUGH THE FATHER'S HOUSE SO THAT HE COULD SEE THEM FROM HIS ROOM IN THE TOWER).
But back to Holbrook Beard. He's fascinating. And it's interesting to bear in mind that this is how he pictured himself.
Self Portrait in the 10th Street Studio
There's all this evocative stuff in his work: there's mythology, mortality, Darwinism, comedy, cuteness, nobility, classicism- it's a huge, weird range. There is an irritating picture of a noble stag and a great picture of death with a tiger. His body of work is so odd and varied that I think it's best to just show the paintings. I've added dates when I have them.
Susannah and the Elders 1865.
So You Wanna Get Married, Eh'? 1886
The Runaway Match , 1877
The Bulls and Bears in the Market
Fox Hunters Dream 1859
The Disputed Way, 1889
Bears in the Watermelon Patch 1871
The Witches Convention 1876
Discovery of Adam , 1891
Scientists at Work, 1894
For What was I Created, 1886
Bear and Cubs 1864
Begging for Apples 1898
Monk's Soliloquy (!?!?!)
Pigs is So Greedy
The Lost Balloon (This cracks me up. It's like he decided those boring Hudson River School painters needed a little spicing up.)
This is my favorite. The Power of Death.
And because it's good to know that bad art happens to the best of us, The Majestic Stag
This is William Holbrook Beard's grave, at Greenwood Cemetery. Please, somebody, if I die tomorrow, I want one of these.
*The Stranger's Club. How great is that? I've been researching it a little online and it turns out that there were also Stranger's Clubs in the Panama Canal and in Buenos Aires. Edgar Wallace mentions it in a book called The Shadow Man, which provides a neat description of the club.
"That building, sir? Oh, that's the Strangers Club. It used to be the Banbury Club, for hunting people, but it didn't pay, and then a foreign gentleman opened it as a club of some kind. I don't know what they are, but they have scientific lectures every week--they've got a wonderful hall downstairs, and I believe the cooking's very good."
Later in the book, a Deputy Chief Constable says this:
"I happen to know all about the Strangers Club. It is extraordinarily well conducted and every Thursday there is a series of lectures in the basement lecture hall; they have been given by some of the greatest scientists in this country. Dr. Jansen has an international reputation--"
There's also this:
"Evidently the servants at the Strangers Club, though they might be hand-picked for some qualities, were not chosen either or their good manners or their finesse."