Abram Raphael Beck (American, 1858-1947) artist, painter, muralist, illustrator, etcher, sculptor and teacher from Western New York was known for his works in oil, watercolors, large murals, landscapes, stained glass window designs, etchings, portraits, miniatures and life-masks of historical figures. His work was often referred to as realistic and impressionistic, sometimes combining the two styles.
Raphael earned international distinction for winning first-prizes with his designs of the official emblems for the Pan-American Exposition (1901), the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (1903) and the Lewis and Clark Exposition (1905, honorary diploma). The record of these three first-prizes from international expositions is unparalleled.
Raphael, the oldest of eight children, was the son of painter and sculptor Julius Augustus Beck (American, 1831-1915) who taught him the rudiments and many fine points of painting. Augustus Beck was known for his bas-relief at the interior foot of the Washington Monument (featuring Hippocrates refusing bribes from the Persians), and for commission work at the White House, Washington, DC. His siblings included: Katharine Augusta Beck (1860-1941), Harry Kepple Beck (1862-1937), John Beck (1863-1950), Martin Augustus Beck (1866-1961), Marion Beck (1868-1943), Edith Isabella Beck-Wilson (1871-1952), and Mary Alice Beck-Klinedinst (1874-1937).
1858- Born November 16, Lancaster, PA, son of painter & sculptor Julius Augustus Beck (American, 1831-1915), and was the oldest of eight children, named after the great Italian high-renaissance painter Raphael (Raffaello) Sanzio (Italian, 1483-1520).
1878- After studying under his father for several years, at the age of twenty, Raphael traveled to Munich & Paris and studied at the Art Academy under the Hudson River School landscape painter, Paul Weber (German-born American, 1823-1916) and Frank Duveneck (American, 1848-1919). He later studied under Leon Baschet at the Academie Julian, Paris, as well as at the Harrisburg Institute.
Circa 1880- Moved back to the United States and immediately began work for the Capitol Building in Harrisburg, PA. He painted a series of murals which were later destroyed in a fire along with the buildings. He then settled in Lockport, NY and resided on Ontario Street and also opened a studio on the top floor of the Calumet Building, 52 West Chippewa Street, Buffalo, NY. He later had another studio at 479 Willow Street, Lockport, NY, where he taught until 1946. Raphael married Frances (née Hall), Lockport, NY, and the couple later had a son Frederick D. Beck (of Pittsburgh, PA, 1900-1999) and a daughter Phyllis (Mrs. Allan Van DeMark of Lockport, NY, 1909-2005).
Circa the 1880's- Raphael and his wife Frances traveled to Europe, Holland, Switzerland and Venice which inspired many of his paintings. Before returning to the United States, Raphael studied for a short time at the Julian School in Paris and received criticism from Dutch artist Hendrik Willem Mesdag (Dutch, 1831-1915).
1892- Exhibited at the National Academy of Design, NYC.
1898- Painted the portrait of Buffalo Mayor, the Hon. Edgar B. Jewett who (served from 1895-97).
1899- Designed and won first-prize, out of 400 design submissions, the Pan-American Exposition official emblem which was used for the 1901 exposition in Buffalo, NY.
1900- Their son Frederick D. Beck (1900-1999) was born.
Circa 1900- Opened a studio and school for artists which he maintained for over 30 years in Buffalo, NY.
1901- January 23rd, won a $100 prize for the corporate seal design of the Natural Food Co., Niagara Falls, NY. He also sketched and soon after, painted the last known portrait of President William McKinley during his speech at the Pan-Am Exposition in Buffalo, NY, before his assassination there in September of that same year, which brought him further fame when it hung in the Senate Chamber of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. (It is now in the collection of the Buffalo History Museum).
1902- The President McKinley portrait is hung in the Senate Chamber of the Capitol Building, Washington, DC.
1903- Designed and won first-prize for his Louisiana Purchase Exposition official emblem design, St. Louis, MI. Their infant son John Beck (unknown-1903) passed away.
1905- Designed and won first-prize along with honorary diploma, for his Lewis & Clark Exposition official emblem design, Portland, OR.
Circa 1905-06- Painted the portrait of Buffalo Mayor, the Hon. Erastus C. Knight (served from 1902-05).
Circa 1907- January, exhibited at the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy at the Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY (now the Albright-Knox Art Gallery).
1909- Their daughter Phyllis Beck-Van DeMark (Mrs. Allan Van DeMark of Lockport, NY, 1909-2005) was born. Exhibited, group show, "Fifteenth Annual Exhibition of the Buffalo Society of Artists, Beck showed his portrait of Charles Rohlfs titled "Sgnarello", Buffalo, NY.
1925- Was commissioned to paint the now well known mural "The Opening of the Erie Canal, October 26, 1825", by the Lockport Exchange Trust Company Bank, for their new building on Main & Pine Streets, Lockport, NY, and was completed in 1928, and later donated in 1970 to the Niagara County Historical Society who loaned it to the Lockport High School, and was later moved to the Erie Canal Discovery Center in 2005, Lockport, NY.
1931- November, exhibited, solo show, about 50 oil & watercolor paintings shown of scenes of Cape Ann and European scenes, auditorium of the Grosvenor Library, Buffalo, NY.
1946- November, received 50-Year Medal for meritorious service from the Grand Lodge of Masons (Niagara Lodge 375 F&AM).
1947- May 29th, died at his home at 479 Willow Street, Lockport, NY, from a heart attack at the age of 88. Besides his wife Frances (née Hall) Beck, he left behind a son Frederick D. Beck (of Pittsburgh, PA) and a daughter Phyllis (Mrs. Allan Van De Mark of Lockport, NY), two of his brothers John Beck who was a commercial artist (of Williamsport, PA), brother Martin Beck a retired artist (of Elgin, IL), and one sister Mrs. John H. Wilson (of Philadelphia. PA). Services were held at the family home on Willow Street and the funeral was held that following Saturday. Raphael is buried at the Lockport Glenwood Cemetery, Lockport, NY.
1961- November 5-20, solo show, the Niagara County Historical Center opened their new auditorium & museum gallery and had a memorial exhibition of thirty paintings in various media by Beck "Memorial Exhibit of Paintings by Raphael Beck", 28 works in oil, watercolor & pastel were shown, show curated by Charles H. Boyer, 215 Niagara Street, Lockport, NY.
1981- February 13th, exhibited, solo retrospective show, the Kenan Center, Lockport, NY, 66 paintings and drawings of Beck’s portraits, landscapes and still-lifes, and the exhibit also included 10 works by his father, brother, sister and former teacher Paul Weber of the Art Academy in Munich, Germany.
1983- The New York State Council of the Arts awarded a grant for the restoration and conservation of Beck’s President McKinley portrait. A window was added to the reverse side of the painting so that the inscription by Beck could be read: “This portrait of Wm. McKinley was painted from sketches and notes made on the spot Sept. 5, 1901. It was begun a few days after he was shot.” It was signed, Raphael Beck, Buffalo, N.Y., Jan. 16, 1902.
1986- Beck’s President McKinley portrait was placed, in its original massive frame in the Buffalo Historical Society building (the former New York State Pavilion, and only remaining building left from the Pan American Exposition).
2009- January-March, exhibited, solo retrospective show, "Raphael Beck Revisited", 50 pieces of various mediums were shown to include etchings, still lifes, landscapes, portraits, murals, commercial designs and the President McKinley portrait, and were from a variety of loaners, Kenan Center, Lockport, NY.
Beck painted throughout Western New York, the United States, Paris, England, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, France, Holland and Italy.
Other Prizes: Second-prize for his design of the City of New York emblem; Received 50-Year Medal for meritorious service from the Grand Lodge of Masons (November, 1946).
Memberships: The Buffalo Society of Artists, Buffalo, NY.
Murals: The Capitol Building (destroyed circa 1880), Harrisburg, PA; the Elk’s Club (later the Mar’s Hotel, “Justice” and “The Flight of the Elk”, circa 1906), Buffalo, NY; the Lyceum Theatre (1909), Rochester, NY; the North Park Theatre (5 panels in dome and 1 above stage, 1920), Buffalo, NY; the Buffalo Lodge B.P.O.E., Buffalo, NY; the Temple of the Buffalo Consistory A.A.S.R. (Murals, Frescos and 16 Panels, “History of Dance”, 1924), Buffalo, NY; the Grosvenor Library (“Dissertation to a Roast Pig”, 1925, later moved to Central Library Building in Lafayette Square and restored in 1967), Buffalo, NY; Buffalo State College, a mural on the history of education designed for Rockwell Hall, Buffalo, NY (in storage at the Burchfield-Penney Art Center); Buffalo School 81, three oil canvas murals on local history, in auditorium, Buffalo, NY; the Lockport Exchange Trust Company (“The Opening of the Erie Canal, October 26th, 1825”, completed in 1928, and later donated in 1970 to the Niagara County Historical Society who loaned it to the Lockport High School, and was later moved to the Erie Canal Discovery Center in 2005, Lockport, NY; the Cataract Theatre (French explorer “Rene de LaSalle” and “Father Louis Hennepin”), Niagara Falls, NY; the Strand theatre, Niagara Falls, NY; the Buffalo State Teachers College, Buffalo, NY; and St. Mary’s Church, Lockport, NY.
Permanent Displays: the Buffalo Historical Society, Buffalo, NY; the Erie County Central Library, Buffalo, NY; the Niagara County Historical Society (“Marquis de Lafayette” portrait from death-mask, and others), Lockport, NY; stained-glass windows at the Masonic Home, Utica, NY; stained-glass windows at the First Presbyterian Church (1909), Rochester, NY; and the 1st Presbyterian Church (“Jesus Christ and Pontius Pilate”), Lockport, NY.
For additional information on this artist or for other examples of his works, please visit the AskArt link
(Rewritten & compiled chronologically by Mark Strong of Meibohm Fine Arts, Inc., East Aurora, NY, meibohmfinearts.com, (updated 09/2017), Sources: Too long to list here and are furnished upon request.)