Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Jack Wolfgang Beck - Artist - 1923-1988

Jack Wolfgang Beck, was a graphic and fine art artist whose advertizing art helped to create a look that today we might call "Mad Men" mid-20th century style art. He was also one of seven artists who shared in the first group exhibition of works at The Loft Gallery in Manhattan; among the other artists was Andy Warhol.

Beck was born in Chicago, Illinois, January 23, 1923, the son of Robert and Bertha (Biermann) Beck. His parents had been married in Chicago on January 19, 1920.

As early as 1949 Beck’s work in advertising art was being noticed and commented on by art critics in the media in New York City.

In addition to this commercial art, Beck also joined forces with seven other artitst to hold an exibit of their work. The seven young painters collaborated in the establishment of a new gallery at 302 East Forty-fifth Street that was christened The Loft Gallery in April of 1954. It was Wolfgang Beck’s large midtown studio loft that was turned into The Loft Gallery, on the top of a five floor walk-up at East 49th Street between First and York.

Those whose work was presented were: Wolfgang Beck, Allan Hugh Clarke, Vito Giallo, Gillian Jagger, Edward Rager, Andy Warhol, and Jacques B. Willaumez.

The gallery of Theater East showed his work in October of 1956. One critic wrote: “The exception was Jackson Wolfgang: Beck, whos curious figures recall the childhood dreamlife”. (Village Voice, Oct 31, 1956).

In 1956 several artists of note, including Beck, produced a series of subway posters. The subway posters (art directed by Silas Rhodes) were by George Tscherny, Ivan Chermayeff, Phil Hays, Robert Weaver, Bob Gill, and Jack Wolfgang Beck, all of whom taught at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) at the time.

In September of 1957, Beck’s art was shown in a New York City gallery show as well.

Throughout his career, Beck’s work moved deftly between a variety of applications, as a graphic artist, he created promotional and advertising design, book design and editorial design.

Selected work:

- “Trees in the Sun”, oil, Oil, Signed Lower Right, n.d.
- Drawings for “Life” magazine; May 30, 1955
- Poster of the quotation: "To the ideal of freedom, law and morality are indispensably requisite...Society and the state are the very conditions in which freedom is realized."--George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Philosophy of History, 1837. From the series Great Ideas of Western Man, 1956, Acrylic on canvas 28 x 18 1/8 in. (71.1 x 46.0 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Container Corporation of America 1984.124.32 (Not currently on view).
- Drawings for Life magazine; Oct 14, 1957
- “William Morris”, Book Cover Drawing, 1957
- Haymakers Lady's Shoes Ad, 1957
- “Without Art…” poster; (School of Visual Arts Collection), late 1950s
School of Visual Arts Department of Illustration Exhibition, 1961: Jack Wolfgang Beck
- “Blitzkrieg” (story illustrations) in Boys Life, October 1963
- Hamlet, By William Shakespeare, design by Daniel Haberman, illus. by Jack Wolfgang Beck.
- “Untitled,” mid-1900s; ink, watercolor on board. Gift of Esquire, Inc. Not on display. Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas. n.d.

Beck died in New York City on August 10, 1988.

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