William Holbrook Beard (1824-1900), The Bear Discussion, 1881; oil on canvas, 15 1/8 x 19 1/8 inches; Burchfield Penney Art Center, Purchased and conserved with funds from John and Carol Kociela, 2013
The Bear Discussion is one of William Holbrook Beard’s anthropomorphic vignettes in which animals pose in human-like interactions. A standing bear gestures with its paws to make a point to another bear seated at the opening of a cave. We can only guess about the content of their discussion; it could be a familial tête-à-tête as the gentle giants gaze into each other’s eyes. They are surrounded by a peaceful woods dappled with light.