Born: Lancaster, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Abram Raphael Beck was a painter, muralist, illustrator, etcher, sculptor, and teacher based for most of his life in Western New York. Born on November 16, 1858 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, he initially studied art under his sculptor/painter father before leaving home at age 20 to study in Munich and Paris. In 1880, Beck returned to the U.S. and settled in Lockport, N.Y., where he married Frances Hall. (Over the following decades, the couple traveled often to Europe on painting trips.) By 1900 Beck had a home at 479 Willow Street in Lockport and a studio at 52 West Chippewa Street at the top of the Calumet Building in Buffalo, N.Y., and he operated a school for young artists.
Beck won three major competitions to design logos for some of the World’s Fairs which were prevalent in the early years of the 20th century: the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo (1901), the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis (1904), and the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition in Portland, Oregon (1905).
He also painted many local and national figures, including the final portrait of William McKinley before the President was assassinated at the Pan-American Exposition, 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.) Beck’s murals graced churches, theaters, schools, clubs, public buildings, and commercial establishments throughout Western New York. Among those that remain standing are “The Opening of the Erie Canal, October 26, 1825,” now housed at the Erie Canal Discovery Center (24 Church Street, Lockport), and five panels for the Auditorium dome and a proscenium fresco in the North Park Theater (1428 Hertel Avenue, Buffalo). Beck's work was alternately referred to as realistic and impressionistic, sometimes combining the two styles.
Though officially retiring in 1945, Beck continued to paint up until his death on May 29, 1947 at the age of 88. To date there have been two major retrospectives of his work, both at the Kenan Center in Lockport.: Raphael Beck: A Retrospective, February 13-March 8, 1981 (accompanied by a catalog), and Raphael Beck Revisited, January 11-March 1, 2009.
For more information on Raphael Beck, visit http://www.meibohmfinearts.com/artists.aspx?ID=49.
See also Lynn S. Berman, "The Diverse Career of Raphael Beck," Western New York Heritage, Vol. 12, No. 2, Summer 2009, pp. 32-42. (details at http://wnyheritagepress.org/magazine/2012_images/2008_2010/summer2009.pdf)