Wednesday, April 02, 2008

William Holbrook Beard - It Rains It Shines, The Devil Whipping His Wife, 19th C.

"The author of this provocative nineteenth-century painting, William Holbrook Beard, was born into a family of portrait, animal, landscape, and genre painters in the small town of Painesville, Ohio, near Cleveland. He is best known for his satiric genre scenes featuring animals as stand-ins for human beings behaving badly. He frequently used bears as protagonists. The present work is less anecdotal, and more hauntingly compelling than many of his satirical works. In the upper scene, an innocent child has happened upon a peculiar wooden grate on the ground in a clearing of a misty field. Noises from below the strange construction attracted the child's attention and led him to kneel down and listen. In the lower, underground scene, which is rendered in an entirely different palette of earth tones and fiery furnace reds, Beard has painted a scene of a devil flogging his wife. Reminiscent of the work of Salvator Rosa, the subject is doubtless related to a literary source, but has a painterly rather than illustrational quality." - quote and image source.

The Discovery of Adam, 1891

"Best known for genre scenes of animals satirizing human behavior, William Holbrook Beard painted his first known monkey painting only two years after the publication of Charles Darwin's controversial Origin of the Species, 1859. Beard believed that animals possessed souls and could express human emotions and feelings, yet according to Robert M. Peck, "Beard refused to believe in man's descent from more primitive primates." (Peck, 1994, p.699) No other work in Beard's extensive oeuvre so clearly and humorously illustrates the artist's opinion of Darwin's theory than the present work, Discovery of Adam, 1891. Here, a group of well dressed monkeys appear confounded at the discovery that their ancestor, Adam, is in fact a turtle. Beard further conveys his message by inscribing "200,000 B.C. Adam" on the tortoise's shell. Beard possibly refers to Darwin's theory of evolution, the survival of the fittest, by depicting two prehistoric pterodactyls fighting in the left background." - quote and image source.

More work by the artist can be found listed at Artcyclopedia.
The Monkey Fur art blog has a post with a selection of Beard's animal related paintings.

1 comment:

Noelle said...

This is a cool blog. I suspect that W. H. Beard's It Rains It Shines, the Devil Whipping His Wife painting illustrates an old French saying:"Le diable bat sa femme et marie sa fille" (which translates: "the devil is flogging his wife and marrying his daughter"). That saying refers to the weather when it is simultaneously rainy and sunny.