Many artists have made a name for themselves painting the picturesque landscapes that reach out in every direction from the river. Few have been as successful capturing the minutiae of life along the river, but Beck certainly has.
He is known for setting up on the periphery and churning through several paintings at a time – or one painting at an unbelievable rate. I’ve attended several local fundraisers where Beck was positioned off to the side with his easel. Before the end of the night, the painting he’d been working on was auctioned off.
“The majority of my paintings are done directly from the subject in one sitting,” Beck said in an interview. “They depict where I am, what catches my interest, and what it feels like to be there … . The reason why I was drawn to a subject became part of the image. It got very personal.”
He paints as though he’s documenting a specific moment of time, and he needs to move quickly or risk losing it. Sometimes the scene is a glimpse into a rarely seen world, like a collection of bucks strung up around a campfire after a day of hunting. Far more often, they’re scenes you’re probably intimately familiar with: peering down Stockton’s Bridge Street from the bridge, a group of cows lounging in a sun-filled pasture, the well-lit entrance of John & Peter’s on a quiet evening.
This Friday, for the first time, the James A. Michener Art Museum, in Doylestown, will feature a comprehensive collection of Beck’s paintings in an exhibition titled “It’s Personal: The Art of Robert Beck.”
“Beck’s approach to his subjects is personal, but his subjective vision is relatable and familiar to many of us,” says Laura Turner Igoe, PhD, the Michener’s chief curator. “Beck’s paintings convey a strong sense of community and belonging that we are sure will resonate with many visitors.”
Beck attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, in Philadelphia. His work has been featured in exhibitions and galleries in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maine. He maintains a studio at his home in Solebury, where he lives with his wife, Doreen.
A Thousand Words: Essays and Art by Robert Beck, an illustrated catalogue and collection of the essays he wrote for ICON magazine, will be published in conjunction with the exhibit.
“It’s Personal” will remain on view through January 2, 2022.
The Michener is open Thursday through Sunday. Through Aug. 26, it’s hosting “Summer Nights Pay-What-You-Wish” on Thursdays from 5 PM to 8 PM. General admission tickets can be reserved here.
While You’re There, Check Out These Shows, Too
Through the Lens: Modern Photography in the Delaware Valley. A deep, nuanced exploration of the many talented photographers who have populated the region over the last 70 years (Paula Chamlee, Jack Rosen, Emmett Gowin, Diane Levell) and their varying approaches to their craft. Runs through Aug. 15.
Collection Spotlight: Etchings by Daniel Garber. A less-known –and dare we say, more intimate – side of the revered artist, who rose to fame for his colorful, impressionistic landscapes from in and around New Hope at the start of the 20th century. Runs through December 26.