Jack Beal a leader of the NY Realist movement, in the 1960-1970s has died age 82. He first came to prominence as part of a group of artists which included Philip Pearlstein and Alfred Leslie, in New York. They rejected Abstract Expressionism for a return to a figurative and narrative painting genre. The group was given various labels like New Realism and Hyper-Realism and they were the precursors of Photo-Realism a splinter of the Pop Art movement.
Jack Beal was born on 25 June 1931, in Richmond, Va. His father was a factory worker. An only child, Jack took to drawing early and developed his interest while studying biology and anatomy at the Norfolk Division of the College of William and Mary, now known as Old Dominion University. Before earning a degree, he enrolled in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he studied with Kathleen Blackshear and was influenced by the work of Arshile Gorky.
Beal’s first major solo exhibition was held in New York at the Allan Frumkin Gallery, now renamed the George Adams Gallery. Best known for his large contemplative nudes. They are usually set in elaborately detailed rooms. He was first and foremost a figurative painter that influenced others as one of the dominant forces in the revival of figurative art, beginning in the 1960s and 1970s. One of his best known commissions was the detailed portrait, landscapes “The History of Labor,” a series of four murals he painted from 1974 to 1977 for the Labor Department’s headquarters in Washington. The murals established him “as the most important Social Realist to have emerged in American painting since the 1930s,” stated Hilton Kramer, the art critic for The New York Times. But the work was good, Mr. Kramer declared in a review in 1977. “The murals abound in visual incident, dramatic shifts of space and light and an unflagging energy,” he wrote, describing crowded scenes of neighbors helping neighbors, social workers rescuing children from factory jobs, scientists toiling side by side with laborers for the good of all. The overall effect, he said, was “breathtaking.” Beal died peacefully of kidney failure on 29th August in Oneonta, NY and is survived by his wife, the artist Sondra Freckelton.