The Irvine Museum

Irvine, CA

(949) 476-2565

Tower 17 - 12th Floor - the museum's location, photo courtesy of Irvime Museum, 1994


The Irvine Museum Receives Gift of Arthur Beaumont Paintings

The Irvine Museum is pleased to announce that it has received a significant gift of forty six paintings and drawings by the noted artist Arthur Beaumont (1890-1978) from his son Geoffrey Campbell Beaumont. The distinguished collection, which has been exhibited throughout the country, will greatly increase the museum's existing holdings of works by this important California artist whose work bridged the transition from what is generally described as California Impressionism to the American Scene style of painting associated with the Depression.

Arthur Beaumont devoted much of his life to documenting the history and valor of the U.S. Navy. Born in England, traveled to Canada at age eighteen to work on a horse ranch in Saskatchewan. A year later, he moved to Oakland, California, and enrolled at the San Francisco School of Art. After one year's study, he returned to ranch work as a cowboy in the San Joaquin Valley. When seriously injured in an encounter with cattle rustlers in 1915, he moved to Los Angeles to resume painting.

By 1919, Beaumont had married the former Dorothy and had established his own commercial art studio. In 1921 he enrolled at the Chouinard School of Art and took classes with modernist Stanton MacDonald-Wright (1890-1973). He received a scholarship from Mrs. Chouinard in 1925, closed his commercial studio, and went to Europe to further his art education at the Academie Julian, the Academie Colarossi and at La Grande Chaumiere. He returned to Los Angeles in 1927, and took a teaching position at Chouinard.

The great turning paint in Beaumont's career came in 1932, when he painted the first of three famous portraits of Admiral William D. Leahy. From then until 1977, Beaumont served as the Official Artist of the U.S. Navy.

In 1941, the National Geographic Society selected Beaumont to paint "Ships That Guard Our Ocean Ramparts," a series of paintings of battleships, destroyers and other naval vessels, many of which are included in the Beaumont Gift to the Irvine Museum. The project was published in the September issue, barely three months before the attack on Pearl Harbor. The tremendous popularity of these painting prompted the National Geographic Society to commission Beaumont to paint a similar series on the U. S. Army, which were published in 1942.

In 1943, Beaumont served on the citizens committee that raised $40 million to build the cruiser U.S.S. Los Angeles. His paintings and posters of the proposed ship were used in the fundraising drive and accounted for over $1,500,000 of the money raised. Throughout the war, Beaumont's paintings of the ships and crews were instrumental in shaping the public's view of the gallantry and determination of the U.S. Navy.

After the war, Beaumont recorded the testing of the hydrogen bomb on Bikini Atoll. These remarkable paintings were exhibited at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. and sent on a nation-wide tour. Several of these extraordinary paintings are now in the Irvine Museum collection as part of the Beaumont Gift.

In 1957, Beaumont was the Official Artist in the U.S. Navy Arctic Expedition. He painted the North Polar Ice Cap and was one of only a few people to complete the fabled "Northwest Passage" from the Pacific to Atlantic Oceans aboard the U.S.S. EI Dorado. Three years later, he painted at the South Pole as the Official Artist for Operation Deep Freeze. Moving about in the perilous landscape, Beaumont fell through a snow bridge into a crevasse and narrowly escaped death before rescue by a captain of the New Zealand Navy.

In 1967, he and Dorothy moved to Leisure World, in Laguna Hills, California. He continued to paint aboard a number of Navy ships and exhibited his works throughout the country. In 1964, Beaumont was bestowed the Meritorious Public Service Citation, the highest civilian award by the U.S. Navy, for his service as "a distinguished marine artist." Arthur Beaumont died at his home on January 23, 1978.

The Irvine Museum is planning a major retrospective exhibition of the life and works of Arthur Beaumont for the year 2001. The paintings that comprise the Geoffrey Campbell Beaumont Gift will constitute the core of the exhibition.

Resource Library editor's note:

For biographical information on artists referenced in this article please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists

This article was originally published in 1998.

Rev. 8/27/09

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