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  • by Geoffrey Beaumont

Arthur Edwaine Beaumont

Storm  in the Yellow Sea, c.1948

Arthur Beaumont, noted maritime artist, was born in the United Kingdom in 1890. Arthur emigrated to California in 1909 where he enrolled in the fine arts program at University of California at Berkeley.

In 1912, while working on the Miller & Lux ranch earning funds for his tuition, he was attacked by a gang of cattle rustlers. He was severely beaten, resulting in a lifelong loss of hearing in his left ear, broken ribs and a fractured skull. As he slowly recovered from his injuries, there were further attempts on his life, prompting the local sheriff to advise Arthur to get out of town and change his name.

Let Go Starboard Anchor, 1936

Arthur moved to Los Angeles in 1915 where he gave up his Crabbe family name, and assumed his new identity as Arthur Beaumont. In 1919 he married his sweetheart and lifelong companion, Dorothy Dean, and in 1921 he resumed his studies at the newly founded Chouinard Art Institute. During 1925 and 1926, Nellie Chouinard, the Institute's founder, arranged for Beau to return to Europe and study at the University of London's Slade School of Art and in Paris at the Academies Julian and Colarossi.

In 1932, during the depths of the Great Depression, Beau had the good fortune to meet the ambitious Admiral William Leahy. Leahy, soon to become head of the Navy, recognized Beau' s talent and offered him the position as the US Navy's official "Artist of the Fleet”. Between 1933 and 1941, as a lieutenant in the naval reserve, Beau would paint virtually all of the capital ships of the United States Navy in both watercolor and oils.

As war broke out in Europe in 1939, Beau was hired by William Randolph Hearst as chief illustrator for the Hearst newspaper syndicate, tasked with creating images of the horrors of the Axis Power's aggression across the world. And in 1940, the National Geographic Magazine commissioned Beau to create a series of Army and Navy paintings to be published in 1941 and again in 1942, after Pearl Harbor. During the War years, his ship portraits and battle scenes documented virtually all of the capital ships of the dramatically expanded US Navy.

Chinese Waters, 1948

With the conclusion of World War II, and the commencement of the Atomic Age, Beau was appointed Staff Artist to witness and paint, in "plein air", the tests at Bikini Atoll in 1946, creating the first historic paintings of the atomic bomb. In the post war years, Beau's paintings portrayed the US Navy during the Cold War, documenting its activities in the Chinese Revolution, the Korean War, and subsequently, the war in Vietnam. In the process, Beau documented the Navy's technological evolution as it adapted to the challenges of a nuclear world.

Toward the end of his 45 year career with the US Navy, Beau was named as official artist for three expeditions to the the Arctic and the Antarctic. In the process, he completed the first "plein air" painting on location at the South Pole.

In 1964, the Secretary of the Navy awarded Beau the Navy's Meritorious Public Service Citation, the Navy's highest civilian honor.

Beau passed away at his home in California in 1978. He leaves behind a remarkable legacy of more than 1200 studio finished works, predominantly of naval subjects. Beau was a proud member of the Jonathan Club for more than 40 years.

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